Smile Politely

The celebrity starting 5ive for the Illini

At the end of March 2009, I’d penciled only two names into the starting line-up for this year: Mike Davis and Jeff Jordan. Call me crazy.

And yet, here at the end of November I’m suffering the same insanity. My questions about the freshmen have been replaced by different questions about the freshmen. I would never consider thrusting Mike Tisdale or Alex Legion at just any old opponent’s line-up. Their skill sets are too specialized.

I decided to be indecisive. And then I changed my mind.

I asked Jerrance Howard and Jay Price (separately) whether the staff would consider alternating starting line-ups based on match-ups. I got short, quotable answers.

“No,” is the most succinct way of putting it. But “you are out of your mind,” “that’s dumb,” and “have you ever watched basketball?” capture the mood better. The philosophy, not quite verbatim, is that you put your best players on the floor, and you try to impose your style on the other team.

Why then, I wondered quietly to myself, do teams spend any time scouting their opponents?

When I finally found a moment to ask Coach Weber the alternating line-ups question, I expected to get the same answer I got from his deputies.

But I didn’t.

Weber was very broadminded about alternating line-ups. He said it’s not crazy at all, but more common at the professional level.

I pointed out that Mike Tisdale’s sophomore year was evenly divided between good games (some outstanding) and bad games (some thoroughly forgettable). Weber simply pointed out that Mike is still very young.

He then added that he’s not sure whether he has five reliable guys. The problem isn’t having too many guys ready to start, but not enough.

Back to the drawing board I went, revisiting my original query. Jordan and Davis, those are the only guys whose skills match well with just about any team.

I decided to be indecisive again. And then I changed my mind again.

I chose to pick the brains of people more decisive than I: People who routinely make tough decisions.

My background is law, and my other background is the music business. And I consider myself a service industry guy. So I asked people from those three areas. I know how important decisiveness is when lives are stake, or when the recording session hits a creative conflict. And when some noob breaks a glass over the ice bin at 11:30 when the nighclub is packed — well, that’s when you find out what you’re really made of.

Naturally, the service industry professionals never responded. They’re too busy working.

Judge Michael Q. Jones (R) Sixth Circuit

My starting 5 is McCamey, Davis, Tisdale, Richardson and Paul. My initial reaction was to give the last spot to Legion for two reasons: one way or the other we’re going to need him and I want him confident, and it would be nice not to start two freshmen. I’ve rethought that after watching three games; both Richardson, whose prep school experience was closer to junior college, and Paul are handling themselves so far very well for freshmen. Dee and Deron managed, and I think these two can also. Paul is too good not to start. We haven’t seen athletic ability like his in 20 years here.

Jordan will get minutes for two reasons; Bertrand is questionable health-wise, and coaches like “safe” players. He doesn’t accomplish much offensively, but he takes care of the ball and guards. Sort of Chester Lite. So he will play because he stays out of the way. Semrau has one useful attribute: five fouls. Keller gives great spark off the bench, and can make a difference in the right matchup. Tyler seems very sound for a freshman, and can play the four.

I do think we need to develop play-makers. I’d much rather have seen Brandon Paul than Jeff Jordan in the game at the end of both the Utah and Bradley games. Basketball coaches are often conservative guys; they’d rather see a guy score five and give up five than a guy who scores 20 and gives up 20. But the latter, apart from being more entertaining, is more likely to (a) find a way to win a close game at the end and (b) learn, in time, how to hold the other guy to five.

— Mike Jones

Tim Johnson (R) U.S. House, ex-youth basketball coach

(I encountered Mr. Johnson during a morning walk on Veterans’ Day. Still in pajamas, and without notes, he reeled the names off the top of his head.)

Legion, Tisdale, Davis, McCamey and Richardson. Paul is the sixth man. Oh, and Bubba Chisholm too. My constituents will like that.



J. Steven Beckett (D) County Board 9, Deon Thomas’s attorney

I am a season ticket holder (and have been for many years) but I regret to say that I did not see either the scrimmage or the Missouri Southern exhibition game. Quincy was my first chance to see the team in person.

While I am excited about the BB team, my wishful-thinking “Five” was based on my vision and hope for this season: Legion, Davis, McCamey, Tisdale and Richardson. My starting five is McCamey, Paul, Richardson, Davis and Tisdale.

I think this is a team that will surprise us with contributions by underclassmen.

— Steve

Julia Rietz (D) State’s Attorney, Champaign County

I, and more importantly my husband Al, agree with Steve. While we are not season ticket holders, we do have friends who let us in on their season tickets when they have an extra seat, and Al watches as many of the games as he can.

We would add (ok, he would add) that he agrees with Steve’s starting line-up, and that it is a toss-up between Richardson and Keller, but that Keller should get the nod to start because he has been here longer. He predicts a nine or 10 man rotation, with many underclassmen getting significant time. Looking forward to the season. — Julia

Barack Obama (D) basketball player, Illinois-based Carolina fan
Incomplete (I tried to help with the suggestions, just in case they’re busy over there at the White House.)

Jonathan Pines, record producer/engineer

and Tisdale I guess…

I have been vacillating re Keller instead of Tizzy… but I want to stick with the height and having a true center, which is a bit pedestrian of me, but there you have it!

I’ve been to well over 90% of the games since the mid–80s. I usually plan my sessions around the games, but not my family’s events, missed games this year due to travel, illness, and funerals, but NOT work! All my kids have been to games since conception, and each go to at least two a season. It is one of the few luxuries I get anymore… GO ILLINI!

Private Studios
705 W. Western Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801

Mark Rubel, record producer/engineer

***Hi Rob!

Is a “basketball” the round orange one, or the brown oblate spheroid?



Pogo Studio
35 Taylor St.
Champaign, IL 61820-4020


Don Gerard, bassist, expert

Brandon Paul – Minutemen/D.Boon (makin’ sh*t up you can’t believe)
DJ Richardson – Minutemen/Mike Watt (ditto)
Mike Davis – Minutemen/George Hurley (solid, yet creative)
Bill Cole – Minutemen/militia (solid, fearless, responds to and thwarts threats)
Jeff Jordan – Minutemen/militia (ditto)
Tyler Griffey – Minutemen/miltia (ditto)
Dmetri McCamey – Minute Rice (remarkably quick, ready to serve [up assists])

Dominique Keller – Eight Minute Abs (and eight hour biceps)
Alex Legion – Minute Made OJ (looks okay, not really very good)
Richard Semrau – Minute Waltz (feet kinda slow)
Bubba Chisholm/Stan Simpson – Last Minute (when up by double digits)
Joseph Bertrand – Back in just a minute…?

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