Illini Brothers

Apr 18, 2022

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I'll write up the ZZ Clark LLUOI post another day - I need to learn more about him first. For today, since there will now be two brothers playing basketball at Illinois, I figured I'd write about brothers playing basketball at Illinois. In my fandom timeframe, I can remember three sets of brothers. I'm probably forgetting someone, but let's go through the three I remember.

Actually, let's start with...

Skyy & ZZ Clark

I did that thing there where I assume you know the news and I write about what the news might mean. But some of you might not know the news, so here: Skyy Clark, the guard who just signed with Illinois last week, has a brother in the 2024 class named ZZ. He just verballed to Illinois this morning.

So depending on how long Skyy Clark stays in Champaign, we might see them playing together in the same backcourt. Skyy arrives this fall, ZZ would arrive in the fall of 2024. If Skyy is still here in 2024, a two-Clark backcourt.

That's all for this section. I just wanted to tell you why I'm writing about Illini brothers.

Brandon & Darius Paul

We'll begin with the one that ended before it started. Brandon Paul you remember. Darius Paul you might not remember because he never played. Actually, I believe he did "play" on one of the foreign tours. But I don't think he ever played a regular season game despite committing to Illinois twice. Here's the basics:

After a solid freshman season at Western Michigan, Darius Paul transferred to Illinois (where his brother had just graduated as the 8th-leading scorer in school history - he's now 10th having been passed by Malcolm Hill and Trent Frazier). Darius had to sit out the 2013/14 season, and while sitting out, he was arrested on campus. The way I remember it, he ran from the cops because he had been drinking and he wasn't 21 yet. He was charged with resisting (and underage drinking) and was dismissed from the team. He played a year at junior college, then returned for the 2015/16 season. And on the preseason foreign tour, he was arrested in France for vandalism, public intoxication, and resisting arrest. His second chance was revoked and that was all for his Illini career. Which, now that I think about it, wasn't really a "career" since he never appeared in a game.

So we're off to a great start here. I decide to write about brothers who played for the Illini and that's where I start.

Luther & Crandall Head

Luther and Crandall were nine years apart. Luther arrived in the fall of 2001 and Crandall arrived in the fall of 2010. Crandall was actually the higher-ranked recruit as Luther had blown-up his senior season but didn't make many top-100 lists (and wasn't in the RSCI top-100). Crandall did make those lists (top-25 on one list at one time when he was a sophomore), but at the big Vegas AAU tournament he tore his ACL before his senior year of high school. Not having a senior year dropped him in the rankings a bit, and by the time the final rankings came out he was #76 in the RSCI. But still, he was part of a three-man class that was set to take us back to the top: Jereme Richmond (ranked 24th), Meyers Leonard (29th), and Crandall Head (76th).

But his career never took off. He did play a bit during his freshman year. The game I remember was the UNLV tournament game where I feel like he played a lot. I need to go look this up. Yep. 9-seed Illinois beats 8-seed UNLV in the first round of the 2011 Tournament. Crandall Head played 15 minutes in that game, was 2-3 from the floor, and finished with 4 points and 1 rebound.

The only other game I remember from Crandall Head was when Bruce Weber put him in the starting lineup at Ohio State. I remember it being completely out of nowhere. Hadn't played much at all (think Podziemski's minutes this past season) and then suddenly in the starting lineup. I tweeted about it at the time:

At the start of the next season he was expected to take on a larger role but he was suspended for the first four games (two exhibition games, two regular-season games) for a violation of team rules. He then played in nine games, scored 9 points in those nine games, went home for Christmas after the Braggin' Rights game and never returned to campus.

I kinda feel bad for a younger brother who has to follow his Second-Team-All-American older brother. Even though it was years later, he'll still be held up against his All American brother. And he had to do it after two knee surgeries.

Brian & Lucas Johnson

This would be the most successful brother combination I can recall. Brian won a Big Ten title in 1998. Lucas got to the Elite Eight in 2001. Here's my memory of their careers.

Brian Johnson arrived as a walkon in 1993 and redshirted. But the roster was still thin because of the Bruce Pearl sanctions, so he got to play a bit in the 94/95 and 95/96 seasons. We'll call him the 10th or 11th-man on those teams.

Then Lou Henson retires and Lon Kruger takes over. First game of the Kruger era we agree to a game AT Illinois-Chicago for Jimmy Collins' first game as the head coach there. Kruger announces the starting lineup and... Brian Johnson is starting? We had assumed that Jerry Gee would start, but there's walkon Brian Johnson starting in front of picked-Illinois-over-Duke Jerry Gee in the frontcourt next to Chris Gandy.

Gee eventually won the starting spot in the second half of the season. But then the following year, with Gandy graduating, both Johnson and Gee were the starting frontcourt on that 1998 Big Ten Championship team. And also in 1998, Brian's brother Lucas committed to Illinois. So one Johnson brother left school and another one arrived. And Lucas played a lot on that Cleotis Brown/Fess Hawkins "the entire starting lineup just graduated, Frankie isn't eligible yet, and Marcus had to go to Juco" 1998-99 team that finished 3-13 in the Big Ten.

You probably remember the rest. The following year, Frankie was eligible after a Prop-48 year, Marcus transferred in from juco, Brian Cook arrived, and suddenly we were a top-25 team again. And then in 2001, a one-seed and a battle with Arizona in the Elite Eight where Lucas Johnson would be one of six, count 'em, SIX Illini to foul out of the game. One more time in case you missed that: SIX Illini players fouled out (the tallest six). So at the end of the game, after Lucas Johnson, Brian Cook, Marcus Griffin, Damir Krupalija, Robert Archibald, and Sergio McClain had fouled out, the Illini lineup was five guards: Nate Mast, Brett Melton, Corey Bradford, Frank Williams, and Sean Harrington. One final time in case there's a tiny chance you missed all of that: every Illini player over 6'-4" fouled out. Of an Elite Eight game. On national TV and everything.

Lucas' senior season did not go as expected. In practice in early October, he tore his ACL. He did return, somehow, 4.5 months later, and played in 15 games, even starting a few. But he was clearly hobbled by the knee brace and couldn't be 100% Lucas Johnson.

So yeah, this trip through my Random Access Memories wasn't as fun as I thought (maybe that should be a regular feature: Robert's Random Access Memory). Only the Johnson brothers both had great careers.

Which just means that the Clark brothers will be the next Illini brothers to have great careers. Let's keep them both here for four years and get six consecutive seasons of Clarks in Champaign.

Including at least three national titles.


IlliniJoe81 on April 18, 2022 @ 02:21 PM

Rumor is that ZZ may reclassify to 2023.

WoodsyMoose on April 18, 2022 @ 02:33 PM

AT LEAST 3 Nattys on April 18, 2022 @ 06:16 PM

Paul and Phil Judson, twin brothers. 1952-55 Illini. Paul was All-Big Ten, Second Team All-American.

mdonsbach on April 18, 2022 @ 06:40 PM

And to flex your football brain muscle what about football? Obviously we got the brown twins currently.

ILLFAN67 on April 18, 2022 @ 09:29 PM

Brian Johnson was a great player! That 2001 Arizona game was the biggest farce. Lute Olsen lobbying pre game for fouls to be called on those rough Illinois boys. Having to listen to Bill Walton openly root for his son and bash Illinois as he did color for that Elite 8 Game. Why he was ever allowed to do that game I don’t know!! Lucas Johnson was a fun watch if you were an Illini fan!! Let’s hope the Clark brothers have similar or better careers than the Johnsons!

Norcal Illini on April 19, 2022 @ 11:56 AM

Ditto on having to listen to Bill Walton, not to mention the master patronizer Dick Enberg. Luke Walton tripped over his own feet, but the ref called a foul on Lucas Johnson who was at least 5 feet away. Arizona was 43-56 from the free throw line in that game, I believe the most attempted and made free throws in an NCAA game, ever. I will hate Arizona forever because of that game.

Douglascountyillinifan on April 19, 2022 @ 01:01 PM

and we lost by 6 points. AZ never shot more than 19 ft's in the final four. Travesty.

Norcal Illini on April 21, 2022 @ 03:53 PM

Adding to the conspiracy, Lute's wife had just passed away, so there was a sympathy factor. Also, MSU had already won to make the final four, and I don't thing the NCAA really wanted two teams from the same conference.

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