Smile Politely

Illini basketball adopts Gun Control policy

There’s a new sheriff in town, and John Groce wants a gang that can shoot straight. Thus, the Illini basketball team now practices with The Gun. The Gun is a machine that snares rebounds, records made baskets, and passes the ball back to the shooter in either case. It looks sort of like a dunk tank, and also like Eddie, the Heart of Gold‘s annoying shipboard computer from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Like Eddie, The Gun prints everything it monitors. That’s no problem for Nnanna Egwu. As of the July 4th weekend, Nnanna had already attempted 11,000 shots, demonstrating his dedication to personal improvement. Ibrahima Djimde was second in shot attempts, according to Illini basketball’s public relations czar Derrick Burson. Players share the printed results with coaches.

Off-season is a time when coaches can’t force guys to practice. You’ll recall seeing assistant coach Jamall Walker demonstrating ball-handling drills to players, in hopes that the lads would run these drills of their own volition. You don’t have to be Kendall Gill to know that off-season workouts can discriminate future pros from future insurance salesmen.

On a recent afternoon at the Ubben & Corzine, D.J. Richardson and Devin Langford worked opposite ends of the court, feeding the machine. To avoid interrupting their workout, Joe Bertrand got yanked out the players’ lounge to provide a representative face, and non-judgmental introduction to the machine that now keeps tabs on the players’ comings and goings. Joe admitted he had, by his own estimation, put up half as many shots as Egwu.


The Gun does the work of at least two team managers. It’s John Henry all over again. Smile Politely, ever the Workers Party rag, will do its best to keep tabs on the future employment prospects for human ball hawkers and stats charters.

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