Illini Most Super Sophomore: Joseph Bertrand!

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What a loaded and deep sophomore class the Illini were to have this year! McDonald’s All-American Jereme Richmond, consensus top 90 recruit Crandall Head, 7-footer/future NBA big Meyers Leonard and overlooked Sterling, Illinois product Joseph Bertrand.

Well, look at where we are today: Richmond caused as many headaches and issues as possible before leaving school after one year; a season in which he was a pedestrian sixth man. Head left the program a couple weeks ago having accomplished absolutely nothing in college basketball. Leonard has been dominant at times, but too often disappears for halves of games.

Bertrand seems like the real solid soph now. Sure, his redshirt year put him into this 2014 class, he wasn’t part of the same recruiting group. However, he seems like the man in that Illini sophomore group right now.

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Illini Show they’re Still “Fighting,” Give #9 Mizzou a True Scare

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If you’re an Illini basketball fan, you’ve got to feel much better about this loss 78-74 to #9 12-0 Missouri Tigers team than you do about the last three wins.

I’ll repeat and explain because I know it’s a very odd sounding sentence. You’ve got to feel much better about this Illinois game tonight when they were down double digits to an undefeated, top ten team yet clawed their way back to take the lead, a few times than: needing Brandon Paul to bail them out in the final minutes at home to a mediocre St. Bonaventure team, failing to close out Coppin St. until late in the second half, and barely escaping by 4 points at home to a .500 Ivy League team (Cornell).

I guess we do their identity now: a team that plays up and down to its competition. Which means they’ll fit right in in this wide open Big Ten.

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Need a Basketball Fix? Illini Scrimmage in Assembly Hall

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The Illinois Fighting Illini will depart in a few days for an Italian tour that is reminiscent (to me at least) of the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Well, probably no identity theft, fraud and homicide, but the scenery and travel destinations are similar.

Before the tour, which includes a scrimmage against West Virginia at a NATO Air Force Base, the Illini welcomed fans (team partisans) waving fans (cooling devices) into their air conditioningless home, for a good ole-fashioned summer scrimmage.

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At Illini Madness, Joseph Bertrand Displays Regained Athleticism

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In the grand scheme of things, does Midnight Madness mean anything? Probably not.

It is a marketing ploy to get students excited about the basketball season by allowing the players to show off absurd moves and dunks that likely have no place in a formal Bruce Weber practice.

For example, D.J. Richardson tried to teach Huff Hall how to dougie at Illinois‘ Midnight Madness Friday night.

But Illinois fans did get a pleasant surprise at Midnight Madness in the form of redshirt freshman Joseph Bertrand, who  won the knockout and slam dunk contests. While the contests were mostly a dog and pony show, Bertrand – who sat out all of last year with a torn lateral meniscus – flashed the athleticism that helped him win two IHSA Class 3A slam dunk championships as a junior and senior at Sterling high school.

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