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The World’s Outdoorest Basketball Practice featured two interpretive dance artists dressed in zebra stripes. I found it fascinating, because although they dressed as referees, their only job was to run up and down a rubber basketball court, watching 10 tall people alley-oop dunk.

The Illini varsity basketball teams kicked off the season with a defenseless highlight reel Saturday afternoon, on an orange waterproof surface, behind the goalposts, in the south corner of Memorial Stadium. The women’s team started things off with a display of their superior shooting skills.

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Followed by the introduction of the men. From left: Calvin Brock, Richard Semrau, Trent Meacham, Demetri McCamey’s head, Alex Legion, CJ Jackson, Mike Davis, Stan Simpson, Jeff Jordan, and Dominique Keller’s left biceps — which often fills the entire frame of a picture.

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Simpson, by contrast, has the narrow shoulders of a typical college freshman. He moves like a giraffe — willowy and tentatively — on the court. It’s what you’d expect of a lone newcomer among veterans. I thoroughly expect him to redshirt, probably spending 360 days of the next year with strength and agility coach, Jimmy Price.

We learned few new things from the practice. Chester Frazier cut off his curly locks. CJ Jackson is enormous, but thinner. Not too much could be gleaned of team chemistry, because there was little implementation of structure in this free-for-all dunkfest. At the outset, Coach Bruce Weber admonished juco transfer Keller to be mindful of a missed low-post, ball side screen. But the scrimmage quickly devolved into a shooting drill.

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Perhaps the least turnout for Illini fans coincided with the best ever turnout for Illini recruits.

Illinois recruits Brandon Paul (Warren; 2009) and D.J. Richardson (Peoria Central/Findlay College Prep, Las Vegas; 2009) were on their official visits. Committed, but unofficially visiting, were Joseph Bertrand (Sterling; 2009), Jereme Richmond (Waukegan; 2010), Crandall Head (Chicago Crane; 2010) and Meyers Leonard (Robinson; 2010).

Uncommitted prospects included Hayden Hoerdemann (Bloomington Central Catholic; 2011), Chris Colvin (Chicago Whitney Young; 2009), Mike Shaw (Chicago De La Salle; 2011), Dre Henley (De La Salle; 2011), Tracy Abrams (Chicago Mount Carmel; 2011), Wayne Blackshear (Chicago Curie; 2011), Chasson Randle (Rock Island; 2011), Bradley Beal (St. Louis Chaminade; 2011), Travis Britt (Rantoul; 2012), and Alex Foster (13-year old giant; Plainfield).

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DJ Richardson and Jereme Richmond

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Joseph Bertrand and Crandall Head

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A bleacherful of potential.

Alex Foster turned 14 yesterday, and he’s no longer the youngest target for the Illini. In this snapshot Staci Smith, Tashiara Byrd and Amber Jones flank the new mother of Illinois Class of 2026 recruit, Jerrance Howard Jr. But it wasn’t just the young people showing off their Illini style.

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Also catching the coaches’ eye with fetching Illini garb was Amaya Johnson, here accompanied by her mother Summer.

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Those who stayed were happy to share their Orange and Blue fashions. And perhaps the most stylin’ attendee was Hall-of-Fame candidate Lou Henson, who revealed his genius once again, somehow managing a cuddle with the photographer who sought his portrait.

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And of course, even the court dressed in the O&B. Here’s what it court looked like, up closer.

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