Smile Politely

Skinny legs & all

9,657 Illini fans ate their tickets Sunday, and stayed home by the fire with a mug of cocoa.

5,657 made it through 50 mph winds, snow, and ice. They kept to themselves, and didn’t bother anyone. Thus, everyone got to hear every single word Bruce Weber yelled, rasped, or muttered to himself during Illinois’ 86–76 win over Northern Colorado.

Weber thought the Illini defense was bad. He dwells on defense, you know. The Illini gave up 50 second-half points.

The Bears hit 50% on threes, but not all of those makes were wide open. Some of them just plain went in anyway.

I’d be more worried about the offense suffering PATAD remission. DJ Richardson is now showing signs of full-blown PATAD.

True, he hit 4-of-9 from His Spot. And Demetri McCamey knocked down 3-of-6 from NBA range. So it worked.

But Northern Colorado had the better offense. If not for 24 turnovers, the Bears win.

The Illini had nine fewer TO’s, got ten additional FGA’s, made five more FG’s and won by ten.

Pretty simple.

It’s not DJ’s fault. As Weber acknowledged afterward, DJ should keep firing as long as he maintains his 50% clip.

However, it begs further inquiry: What is it about Bruce Weber’s offensive theory that transforms playground slashers into arc perchers? For the love of Pete, there are people in Springfield who claim Rich McBride was a slasher once!

Crandall Head drove to the basket once on Sunday, but he pulled-up short, and threw an ill-advised pass for a turnover. Just a few weeks ago, that kid was laying the ball sideways off the glass. What happened?

Joe Bertrand played one minute and drove to the basket TWICE. Has Joe not been infected?

I watched from under the hoop. Icy conditions and general ennui again scared off SP’s better-equipped photographers, so I again had the best seat in the house. When you can see the players’ eyes, you get a good idea of what’s going through their heads.

Illini players run motion by starting from 10 and 2 o’clock on the arch, cutting through the lane to the basket, then turning toward the short corner before quickly banking back out to the arch.

That’s what they did when Weber yelled “open motion!” That’s what they did when Weber yelled “regular motion!”

Rarely are they looking over their shoulders for the dump-down. Why not? Who knows?

In some cases ― what the coaching staff call offensive “sets” and I regard as only “patterns” ― players 2 and 5 cut in the same direction, from the same spot, at the same time. It’s kind of like setting a screen I guess.

There’s a lot of movement, but few dangerous (as in “triple threat”) situations for the opponent’s defense. Compare this to traditional offensive sets that draw players out of the lane rather than continually leading them through it. Contrast those sets in which specific players set timed picks for each other, at the high and low blocks.

Just an idea to keep in the back pocket, in case this jump-shooting spree stumbles one day.


At least three of our freshmen are crazy, nuts.

But Meyers Leonard is a jovial psychotic. Kevin Berardini’s mouth-foaming is rarely seen outside of Ubben. These two are unlikely to present major problems.

Jereme Richmond, on the other hand, struts his every pace with malice aforedunk.

Richmond may win a sportsmanship award before he leaves Illinois. If so, we’ll have to consider Bruce Weber for the Nobel Peace Prize, not merely National Coach of the Year.

Like Hollywood’s Oscar hopefuls, Jereme is most likely to win technical awards.

He was awarded a technical on Sunday for no good reason. Call it a recognition of lifetime achievement, if you like. Having spent time with Richmond on the court, referee Bo Boroski likely had plenty of good reasons to give Jereme a technical.

Jereme doesn’t always whisper the sweet nothings, etc. nuggets of wisdom he posits toward opposing players.

I don’t know that anyone wants to stifle Jereme. Coach Weber wants him to present himself with more aplomb.

Maybe Jereme can fulminate his expressive side in grunt, rather than hiss. Sibilants and fricatives carry, and even draw the attention of officials known to be deaf & blind.

Back to the awards motif…

Richmond’s oop-dunk Sunday might be a perfect 10. Style, grace, showmanship, timing, and a crisp soundtrack. The ball snapped through the net.

Running back down the court, Jereme batted the ball backward over his shoulder. It rolled to the feet of his vanquished opponent, and died.

I suppose the moment is captured on video, because I was sitting next to the under-basket videographer. I don’t need to see it though. The image will remain in my mind. It was so smooth, yet so sassy.


I’ll always revere Ted Valentine.

I enjoyed observing him at work from six inches away. “Let it go, let it go,” he called out, in a soft tenor. Fifteen feet upcourt, two players untangled themselves and ceased scrapping. Only the three of them ever knew about the détente from the fistfight that never happened…or, I guess the four of us…and now you.

The old guy, Dan Chrisman, spent a lot of time engaging the players between live action. He wasn’t always looking in the right place, but you can’t see everything.

Bo Boroski gave me no problems. It might be intimidating to work with two guys from the Adolf Rupp era. If so, he wore it well.


Directional schools are the traditional destination of strangely-shaped players.

The twinkle-toed fatso, the encephalitic sharpshooter, the fleet Pygmy with the anger-management problem; these are all familiar characters at Regional State University.

Anachronistic mustaches and knee-high socks flavor the stew.

Remember the Austin Peay team that nearly depressed us to death in 1987? Bunch of weirdos.

Northern Colorado proved no exception. They had a guy with a big head and a guy with a pornstache. But Bears wing Chris Kaba was the only truly bizarre human oddity.

He defended well, despite being forced to guard guys at every position. He was both quick and strong. That seems strange somehow. Because although his upper body musculature was well developed, he was running around on a matching pair of pencils.

It was worse at the offensive end. He proved unprepared for top tier reaction time. DJ Richardson flummoxed his attempt at a fast break slam. Demetri McCamey batted the ball from his hands.

I’ll bet it hampered Kaba, mentally. He never recovered his shot, finishing a dreadful 2-of-11 from the field ― both from outside the arc, where no one could get to him.


“It’s NOT okay! They gotta do it the RIGHT way!” coach Weber stammered, furious.

Wayne McClain scanned the baseline sheepishly, in a did anybody hear that? I hope nobody heard that sort of way. Of course everybody heard it.

I don’t know what they were talking about.

There are times when Weber paces the sideline, mouth agape, and looks wordlessly to his assistants. Sometimes his eyes roll. Sometimes his tongue lolls.

I imagine what might be going through the assistants’ minds during these moments. “What is he saying? What does he want me to say?”

The dry-erase camouflage hasn’t been seen in years. But other quirks of Weber’s aspect remain inscrutably odd. I guess they’re all accustomed to it by now.

I like Gary Nottingham’s typical response. He starts writing.

The pen and clipboard are essential tools in the ongoing battle to maintain one’s own quiet dignity.


Not only did Joseph Bertrand play, he scored! So did Crandall Head and Kevin Berardini. They each tallied a pair of free throws.

Franco-Caribbean hoopsteur Jean Selus was unable to draw a foul during his moment on the court, and thus finished sans stats.

If these names don’t ring a bell, they were all Illini players once upon a time.

There’s also a guy named Tyler Griffey who recently turned up, evidently still on the team. He scored four points on Sunday.

Pusillanimity aside, it’s hard to argue with Weber’s rotation.

In consecutive games versus small conference opponents, the boss had to withdraw the second string in the waning minutes. Pesky visitors came dangerously close to making a game of it. Against Oakland, all five starters scampered to the scorer’s table, checking-in with a minute to go. (Insert boggle-eyed emoticon here.)

Med school students Chris Hicks and Garth Walker looked good in scarves.

Mayoral candidate Don Gerard came with a woman who claimed blood ties to Mysterious McDade

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