Fall Visits

Feels like 1991 up in here.  In those days, back when and you’d rush back to your dorm room after class to watch Saved By The Bell on TBS at 3:00 (just me?), you followed basketball recruiting through fall visits.  That’s when you knew a player was interested in your school, and when he verballed, you found out in the newspaper or on the evening news.  No, really, that’s what we did. [Read more...]

Bully Pulpit

It’s a dangerous thing. You make a statement on your blog, and then people respond that statement through email or Twitter, and then you have this ability to respond in public while they’re restricted to private conversation. Yes, they can maybe respond in the comments section, but really, a voice gives you the ability to set an agenda.  I try to avoid that, generally. [Read more...]

I Mean, How??

Once I hit age 40 (eighteen months ago), I started feeling all these dad emotions.  Not dad emotions as in fatherhood, but dad emotions as in “pull up a chair and let me tell you how things were”.  It’s weird.  41 is still young, right?  Why, when I hear great basketball recruiting news, is my go-to reaction “sit here, kids, and let Uncle Robert tell you how things used to be”? [Read more...]

Looks Like (He’s No Longer At The) University Of Illinois – Darius Paul

So… I guess he’s not “suspended” anymore. Because originally this whole thing was “Darius Paul suspended from team activities and will have to pay his own way”. He’s now chosen to attend Lamar State Port Arthur, a junior college in Texas, so he’s not “suspended” – he’s gone.

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Remember 4-2-1? Last summer, I wrote about my expectations for the 2014 basketball recruiting class. With Michael Finke already on board, we only had one more scholarship to give. So I wanted to shoot for the moon. Concentrate on four blue chip recruits, get two of them on campus for a visit, and get one of them to sign in November.

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Darius Paul Suspended

“How will we find room for everyone?”, I asked.  “Such a great problem to have”, I bragged.  We take last year’s team, subtract Ekey and Bertrand, add three transfers plus Black and Finke, and…. how will we find room for everyone?

Well, this is one way.

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A Good Problem

When writing about the future of basketball, lately I find myself saying the phrase “then you add Cosby, Paul, Starks, Black, and Finke…” a lot. That’s the hope, right? We lose two guys, add five guys, including three transfers who might be more ready to contribute than freshmen, so the team should be significantly better. Let’s dig into that math.

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You are now reading Version Two of this post. Version One was never published. Because as I was writing Version One, someone on Illinois Loyalty cracked the code to the Nike website (they had all of the pictures there, just hidden from public view), and suddenly every photo of every uniform to be revealed in 20 hours was out there in public view.

I debated linking them here, realized that some people are vigilant about not opening presents until Christmas Day, so I decided to only link one photo here. Because even though someone at Nike is getting a demotion for putting up photos that the public could find, I don’t feel like being a ruiner.

For those who want to see them, just go to the front page at Illinois Loyalty. For those that want to be surprised at 7:00 pm, I’m only opening one present this Christmas Eve – the picture of the alternate gray basketball uniform above. Because I want to talk about the logo.

I’ll start here: I’m curious if some people will start writing “1LL1N01S” just like they write “B1G”, because the top left serif on our new font is certainly prominent (and makes it look like a 1). Someone else on some message board I read pointed out that there are six letters that get that serif: I-L-L-I-N-I. OK, I can work with that.

If you’ve been reading my thoughts on this whole thing, you know what I’ll say next: I’m thrilled that we’ll have a font that carries across letters and numbers. I’ve wanted a Michigan State-type scenario with this whole rebrand, and it looks like we’re getting a font which provides that. Here’s what I mean by “Michigan State scenario”:


See how it’s a unique font with a unique feature that carries across the letters and numbers? Love that. Wanted that. Am getting that. The “I” in “ILLINOIS” and the 1 in the number “13″ on Tracy Abrams’ jersey match? I think I kind of really dig that.

It’s a popular thing with rebrands. Here’s what (gross) Mizzou did (yuck) when they rebranded (puke):


See how they also get that little wedge serif on the side of the letters and numbers? That’s what we get. And we get it on the football jersey and the basketball jersey and the baseball jersey and everywhere else. An I that looks like a 1? It will be everywhere. Starting tomorrow.

How do I feel about it? Not completely sure yet. My very first reaction when I saw it for the first time was “is that a bunch of ones? Like, ‘we’re number one’?” Give me a week to think about it. I disliked the B1G logo at first – I was one of those “you pay six figures for THAT?” people – but now I love it and think that the Pac12 and SEC look like logos from 1997. So now, with this logo, I’m at “think I really like?” but not sure. I’m guessing that by June I love it.

Which is why you hire a Nike. They hire the best and the brightest designers, you walk into their office, you say “we don’t have an eye for these things”, they give you what will look good for 10 years, and you accept it at face value. At least, that’s how I’m approaching this. I still think my pleated khakis look good. (Wait, are pleats out or back in? Back out? See what I mean?) I don’t have a good eye for these things, so if Nike says it’s cool, I think it’s cool.

(And I showed some of the football stuff to my football-crazy son. His response was what I was hoping for: those are sooo siick”,)

Where I’m hung up with this logo is the endzone. How will that read in the endzones? From the side, will it just look like 1LL1N01S? A bunch of ones and zeros with some letters? (We ARE a solid computer science school…)

And how close does that “01″ in 1LL1N01S” look like the General Lee? Were Bo and Luke Duke involved? WAIT – the General Lee is orange. If John Groce doesn’t emerge from the General Lee at Midnight Madness next year, I’m gonna be upset.

OK, I need to get to bed. I have a long drive to Champaign tomorrow night to see some uniforms that made it 15 inches from the finish line before being leaked. My sister showed me where my parents hide the presents, and I feel bad for looking, so now I’m going to act really surprised tomorrow.

And probably fall in love with “1LL1N01S” by 7:15.

Blue Bloods

In scrolling through Twitter last night after UConn beat Kentucky, several people pointed to the same thing: this is UConn’s fourth title in the last 16 years. They gained access to the club in 1999 and have added three more titles since. Once you become a blue blood, it seems, you’re in and set for life.

I want in.

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Go B1G?

New Years Day 1998. I’m at my friend JohnB’s apartment in Nashville. Most of that group of UIUC friends is there – Derek, Goah, Benny, Baynes – and we’re discussing the Rose Bowl that afternoon. How Michigan has a shot at the national title if they win. And how all my friends will be pulling for Michigan, because that’s good for the Big Ten. I just couldn’t do it. [Read more...]