Smile Politely

Media Day 2010 marks start of the season

Illinois Basketball Media Day began at the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration building, Tuesday afternoon. If you want an account of Bruce Weber’s press conference, the boring media all have it.

I headed straight to Ubben for the team photo shoot. When I arrived, only the managers were present. I noticed right away that one of them was not like the others.

Rachel Sloot is just one of the guys.

The team sat for pictures with the managers and without. Dominique Keller’s departure meant younger guys had to pick up the slack on Mischief Duty.

When the photogs wrapped, the players were all individually available to the media. I went to Jereme Richmond first, to get his opinion about Champaign County’s sheriff candidate, who also spells “Jeremy” funny.

Within seconds, I realized we were surrounded by all the other top Illini beat reporters. I wonder whether the other players felt, or may come to feel, ignored.

Most players had at least one reporter attending them. Some guys sat for TV. Point guards Joe Bertrand and Kevin Berardini stood off to the side of the floor, completely free from press irritation. I asked them (and then, as you’ll notice, everyone else) about the tough competition for playing time.

In between interviews, I took pictures of people taking pictures. The beat writers can move from player to player. But the TV cameras and lighting rigs aren’t so mobile. The players come to them.

Demetri McCamey sat patiently through a long series of close-ups with News-Gazette photographer Robin Scholz. After each ack-ack of flashing, his greenish-brown eyes boggled glassily. But you know, Meechi’s famous for liking the bright lights. So I guess it was okay.

Mike Davis had a hard time staying composed through his photo session. Off-camera, Meyers Leonard danced The Jerk in a dastardly fit of Intentional Mischievous Composure Disruption.

With the press firmly met, it was time for practice. Almost.

The last pre-workout business was the yearly flu vaccination. McKinley Health Center sent nurses Anita Lawrance and Jean Rodgers to Ubben with enough hypodermic needles to keep The Rolling Stones happy for a year.

All the players, managers and staff got one. The women’s team all got one. Assistant tennis coach Scott Denenberg got one. But the most important people, the people who bring their stories alive for you the reading public, were shut out.

Anita Lawrance pokes Demetri McCamey with a deadly virus.

The lads then trudged back to the court for drills, and 4 on 4 scrimmages. Bruce Weber harped on McCamey for going though the motions, possibly just for old time’s sake.

He picked on Bill Cole for shooting with no rebounders in position. So watch for that seed to sprout sometime in February, just before you wreck both your TV and an innocent glass of beer.

Weber read a checklist while the players broke for 10 free throws. Shooting 10 free throws is how Illinois prepares for high-pressure, season-saving moments. I had no clipboard but could still watch only two guys from start to finish. Coincidentally, Crandall Head and Davis each hit six.

Wednesday the players each get an hour’s massage. Friday is Madness, 10pm at the Huff. Admission is free. If you’re traveling abroad and desperate, it’ll be streamed at in exchange for money.

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