NBA Draft: Don’t draft No Orange “Heeled” Fighting Illini

Carmelo Anthony

I am doing a little research on previous drafts, trying to figure out which players will be successful in the NBA. Here is today’s post about NBA Draft Don’ts. [Read more…]

Ron Zook on The Rose Bowl, Being Relaxed and Martez Wilson at Media Day

illini logo
Perhaps the fate of University of Illinois football coach Ron Zook DOES lie in this year’s performance. He’s not feeling the pressure to win now, however, either way.

“No, I don’t, to be honest with you,” Zook said at Monday’s media day press conferences. “I think everyone that stands up here today has got pressure.  Obviously some of us have more than others.  I think the thing that you try to do is you do the best you can do.”

The problem with that statement is that over the last couple of seasons, Zook’s best hasn’t nearly been good enough. [Read more…]

Illini Nights at Minor League Baseball Coming Up

illini_cheerleader

University of Illinois head football coach Ron Zook and head basketball coach Bruce Weber will visit with Fighting Illini fans in Chicagoland twice during the month of June for Illini Nights at Minor League Baseball. They will attend the Kane County Cougars game on June 8 at 6:30 pm as well as the Schaumburg Flyers game on June 22 at 7 pm.

[Read more…]

Illinois, Northwestern Announce Scheduling Updates

erin andrews zook rashard

The Big Ten announced today game times for 2010 conference Homecoming games. The Fighting Illini will play at Penn State on Oct. 9 at 11 am CT, at Michigan State on Oct. 16 at 11 am CT and home on Oct. 23 against Indiana, also at 11 am CT. The Illinois Homecoming on Oct. 23 will be the 100th Homecoming celebration on the UI Campus.

In addition, Illinois and Wisconsin have agreed to move the 2011 and 2012 football games to the first Saturday in December. In 2011, the teams will play on Dec. 3 at Memorial Stadium, while the 2012 game will take place on Dec. 1 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

[Read more…]

Illini Football, Cub fans know Soul-Crushing

sad illini fan

cubs L flag

By Paul M. Banks

The year 2008 truly solidified my theory: to be a fan of either the Chicago Cubs and University of Illinois football means you know a lot about soul-crushing defeats. You know more than losing, you know exactly what it’s like to have any shred of hope or optimism crushed into grains of dust. You’ve had your hopes and dreams imploded so many times that you can’t even feel optimism anymore. You’ve routinely endured the type of losing that makes you wonder to yourself why you keep returning, but in ’08 took that disappointment spiked to cataclysmic proportions. The fallout from that devastation will likely linger for generations.

[Read more…]

Wrigley Field set to Host Illinois vs. Northwestern in November!!!

northwestern wildcatsillini logo

CHICAGO The Chicago Cubs and Northwestern University today announced the Northwestern Wildcats football team will host the University of Illinois at Wrigley Field Saturday, November 20, 2010, at 11 a.m. CT. The matchup will mark the first college football game at Wrigley Field since 1938, when DePaul University played home games at the ballpark. The contest will be the first football game of any kind at the Friendly Confines since the Chicago Bears last played there in December of 1970.

[Read more…]

Illinois-Minnesota Live Blog, NCAA’s at Stake!

By Paul Schmidt and Paul M. Banks

Let’s not understate the importance of this game: Illinois MUST win at home, and Minnesota MUST win to keep their slim NCAA hopes alive. Neither team can afford the blemish of this loss.

The key will be which team doesn’t succumb to the immense pressure that comes with must-win games nearly every time out at this time of the season.  Tip off is in just a couple of minutes! [Read more…]

Share the Illinois-Ohio St. 1st Place Love on Valentine’s Day

By Paul M. Banks and Hans Hetrick

(PMB) It’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday manufactured by the collective efforts of Hallmark, Zales, Russell Stover and the Vermont Teddy Bear Corporation, so you know what means? It’s time to celebrate the fact that all of the most annoying and overplayed commercials that we’re sick of will soon be put away for another year! And we have a HUGE game, #13 Ohio St visiting Illinois, to focus on and drown out all the irritating crass commercialization.

(HH)  It’s true. Those Valentine’s Day commercials are torture. Just a reminder that civilization hasn’t progressed much since the actual St. Valentine was beaten with clubs and beheaded by the Romans. On the other hand, the Romans and early Christians certainly didn’t witness a Big Ten title race as exciting as this 2010 version. Five teams fighting it out down the stretch. Illini and Buckeye fans probably weren’t thinking Big Ten Championship three weeks ago.

[Read more…]

Illini PHAT Tuesday!!! Illinois WINS at Kohl Center!

By Paul M. Banks

Getting a road win at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center is like a great Chris Rock routine with out the F-word in it. Some things just never naturally occur in life. I knew the ’04-’05 Illini were a special bunch when they came into this God awful house of horrors and won handily. Other than that famous game which ended the Sconnies’ well-documented winning streak, I have no good memories from this place- UNTIL TONIGHT! When the Illini upset #13 Wisconsin. This was a much bigger, MUCH more important victory than the MSU game.

Even the living legend himself Tom Izzo is 0-7 here. But Bruce has THREE wins in Madison to his credit now!

[Read more…]

Michigan State versus Illinois Preview, Predictions

By Jeff Ghiringhelli, feat. the two Pauls

Photo’s courtesy of Illinois Loyalty.com (be sure to check out that awesome website!)

There always seems to be an added excitement around campus when College Gameday comes to town. Even those that do not follow sports very closely know that there must be a big game. Tonight’s clash pitting Michigan State against Illinois is no exception.

All of a sudden, it appears as though a Big Ten title being delivered to East Lansing is no longer a foregone conclusion. An 18-point loss at Wisconsin was bad enough, but to make matters worse Spartan team leader and point guard Kalin Lucas went down in the second half with a sprained ankle.

[Read more…]

Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas Making Illinois Running Back U. (sort of)

Eagles Steelers Footballpierre-thomas

By Paul M. Banks

It hasn’t been the greatest season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it has been a very productive campaign for the man who usurped Willie Parker as starting tailback. This year Rashard Mendenhall is living up to the lofty expectations he had as a first round draft pick in 2008. The Skokie native and University of Illinois product is in the NFL’s top ten in both yardage and yards per carry.

[Read more…]

Exclusive with the Nation’s Best WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

arreliousbenn1

The University of Illinois Wide Receiving Corps will be among the best in College Football this year. In this four part series, Paul M. Banks interviews and profiles each of the top four Illini pass catching threats.

Part 4: Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

Talk about saving the best for last- in the final installment of my interview/profiles of the stellar University of Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiving corp, I profile Arrelious ‘Rejus’ Benn. He’s by far the best Illini receiver in a generation. The 6’2”, 214 lb darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate has his share of accolades and hardware including:

•    Maxwell Award Candidate
•    Biletnikoff Award Candidate
•    Preseason Third-Team All-American (Athlon)
•    Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten (Athlon)
•    Named Big Ten’s Fastest Receiver (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 20 player in the nation (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten (The Sporting News)
•    2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
•    2007 Freshman All-American

Almost everyone knows him as Arrelious, but people really close to him call him Rejus. “It’s a nickname that started when I was younger, my father’s nickname was Redus and his real name was Arrelious, so I’m named after him,” Benn said. No word yet if anyone in Rejus’s family is named Kathie Lee (hey hey…thanks I just got in from Champaign-Urbana and boy are my arms tired).

Rejus is from Washington D.C. and prepped at Dunbar, in one of the District’s roughest neighborhoods. He’s come a long way to get here and spoke about the difference between a small town in Central Illinois and the nation’s capital. “It’s been slow, but I like it. D. C. is fast, but it’s always good to get away from the city, and find yourself and just focus on what you need to do…Being in Champaign has really matured me into the person I am and I’ve seen a lot of things from both sides, being in the city and in a place like Champaign.” Despite the distance, his family often makes the trek to see him play. “I always have my mom and younger brothers coming to some games.”dsc026871

Illinois’ schedule will extend much longer this season as bye weeks will be more frequent, and much later, until the regular season concludes with a December 5th home date against Fresno St. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to go out there in the cold and sweat. Get covered with scarves around my arm, I like just going out there and playing the game, and I hope it snows,” Benn said about the Illini’s adjusted schedule, which is an attempt to be much crisper and ready for a bowl game- should they qualify.

Benn has mid 4.4 speed, but still includes speed in his list of what he feels he needs to improve upon; which is pretty much everything: route-running, pass-catching, the whole package as he puts it. So what about his greatest strength? “For me to be able to do all the things I can do, at my size, I’m not your typical receiver,” Rejus answered. And his game has drawn comparisons to one of the best in the business right now. “For me to labeled as the next Anquan Boldin would be a tremendous complement.”dsc02693

And you’ll see Benn this fall on special teams, not just in the offense. “That’s my thing, I like to return kicks. Jarrod Fayson, he’s gonna take care of the punt returns, and I’ll get back there some in case he needs a blow. Mostly though, I’ll be doing kickoffs,”  Rejus said.

Benn currently projects as a top ten, maybe even top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2010, and that stock could rise when you consider how (unlike in all of 2007, and portions of 2008) he no longer has to deal with any nagging injuries. “I think this is the healthiest I’ve been since I’ve been here,” Benn said at Illini Media Day. Obviously, this prompts the question of whether he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft next off-season. When asked about all the people who assume he’s done with college after this year, Benn said

“The media just does their job. All my focus is on September against Missouri. That decision is for later down the road. I think I would be dishonest if I was thinking about something like that which I’m not, because we have unfinished business here.”

illinirosebowl

Last year’s 5-7 season, was a devastating disappointment for Benn and the Illini. Following 2007’s 9-4 BCS “Champaign Campaign,” many experts thought Illinois would take the next step forward- or at least remain where they were. “It’s been on our minds since the end of the Northwestern game, it’s been especially on my mind because I was kind of knocked out of that game we missed out on a lot…I wouldn’t say we’re hungry, I’d say we’re starving in terms of going back to a bowl, we had a taste with the Rose Bowl and now we want to know what it feels like to win,” Benn articulated on the program’s big picture before describing the attitude of this year’s squad in training camp “We got a lot of leadership this year, a lot of guys who have stepped up and taken on the role of vocal leaders on the team.”

And the fans are certainly ready for Benn and his teammates to rise. “For Illinois to have not been so good, football wise for a few years, they have a great fan base. Whether we win or lose, our fans are right beside us and I love that.”