Smile Politely

Maui, day one

Hafa adai from the balmy Midwestern Hawaiian Islands. Smile Politely, Inc. is paying me $30 to write about basketball, which means I had to keep my expenses really low. I’m writing to you from the side of Highway 30, picking up free wi-fi from a local boogie board rentals shop. I had to work my way out on a container ship, which is why I missed the game in Honolulu. (It’s even farther west than Maui.)

But now that I’m here, let me tell you about this season’s prospects, from the rosy view of a 30-point Illini blowout plus two comped press room beers.

If the Illini can hit 8-of-14 threes in every first half this year; or if they can score 57 points in each first half this year, they will not lose.

Let’s not kid ourselves; it was not a well-executed game. The ball just kept going in. In the end, that’s what matters. The 17-to-20 assist-to-turnover ratio may safely be ignored when your team wins by thirty.

The Griffeys are all in. Tyler’s mom DeAnna, dad Chris, and siblings Brenna, Taryn, and Trey were all in da house along with DeAnna’s sister Stephanie. That’s a lot of Griffeys.

And from Lambert Airport, that’s a lot of flight miles, and a lot of hotel nights.

The Griffeys spent under $10,000 on the trip. Tyler: They love you.

Don Berardini also spent less than $10,000 on the trip. He only had five in his party, but he still maxed out all his miles. The Latulips were minus brother Joe, who stayed in Illinois to watch youngest brother Mitch in his freshman holiday tournament. For those keeping tabs, Mitch has no offers yet.

Cliff and Lynda Paul are the only other family reps on the island, as far as I can tell.

By the way, I caught a glimpse of Kevin O’Neill’s scouting report. It said, “ABRAMS: Solid RICHARDSON: scorer,” everything else was obscured.


Assistant coach Jamall Walker has returned to the Illini bench, and Brandon Miller has returned to mute. Miller is the Assistant to the Head Coach – the role Gary Nottingham filled for the past nine years – and it’s much different from being just an assistant coach. Per NCAA rules, only four members of a college coaching staff can engage in coaching activities during practices and games, and recruiting off-campus.

Walker and his wife Rebekah welcomed Braylon (7 lbs. 1 oz.) last Wednesday, so Miller took over as third assistant coach in Walker’s absence. Walker rejoined the team on Sunday, and Miller will once again bite his tongue whenever he sees an Illini cutting the wrong way, forgetting to hold his hands high on defense or needing to tie his shoe.

The NCAA is serious about limiting the number of coaches to four. During the Weber years, Illinois self-reported three secondary violations of the Too Many Coaches Rule. The rule creates parity among athletic conferences, or that’s the idea anyway. The theory is that big schools with big budgets would be able to hire as many recruiters as they wanted.



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