Before I get to the titular star of the show, I'l spend just a moment on the star of the show. It's Ray Rice. There's no doubt that it's Ray Rice.
The problem with documenting Ray Rice in print, photography and interview is that Ray Rice cannot be adequately expressed in these media. His movements are indescribable. Still pictures don't do them justice. When asked about them, he shrugs them off.
Ray Rice is the most exciting Illini showman since Frank Williams. Yes, I am aware of Dee Brown.
The game comes to Ray as if he were playing in a different dimension from his defenders on the court. However many arms and feet they thrust in Ray's direction, he takes that many more steps (twirls, hops) to elude them.
And then he spins the ball like a top, and throws it in the air.
When the ball next fastens on some object (a rim, or a backboard) its English throws all motive force toward the bottom of a net.
A physics professor might be able to diagram the relevant properties. Ray just has the gift.
Illinois now has two outright street ballers on its roster. Tracy Abrams has The Street in him as well. But where Tracy's street moves are deceptive and finesse oriented, Ray will just fucking cut you.
Do not mess with Ray.
All right, now let's talk about the white kid.
Jon Ekey got into it with Bobby Capobianco Wednesday night. They battled, not completely Greco-Roman style.
I like Bobby Capobianco. I had a funny experience with him four years ago. Maybe I'll tell it here sometime.
The upshot is that Tom Crean is a dick. I know you people will like hearing about that.
Ekey finished the game with 15 rebounds and two stitches in the top of his scalp. Thus, he earns the much-discussed Smile Politely "tough motherfucker" mantle.
There's something folksy about Jon, the person. Like Ray, he shrugs things off.
It's the same with Joe Bertrand.
Again, Joe was the silent superstar of the night. Apart from 14 points, his threes, and his rebound slam, Joe took a Ray Rice feed at the rim, during a crucial moment late in the game, and snapped the net from six feet away as two huge Valpo defenders closed in.
Oh, and the shot clock was about to expire.
It was one of The Great Plays, and I wonder whether TV did it justice.
Paris Parham and Melvin Nunn spent a lot of time chatting after the game. I was busy bothering Roger Powell, so I didn't get a chance to butt in. But I can imagine the conversation.
My imagination is different from a lot of the rampant speculation on message boards.
Paris and Melvin might have been talking about Kendrick Nunn's development, his strengths and his weaknesses. But they might have been talking about ribs.
Any speculation about Kendrick's PT can stop, right now. He's got a lot of competition at his position, and they're all more experienced than he is.
People freak out too easily.
This was Kendrick Nunn's third college game. Let him catch up to the pace and the surroundings.
Back off Jaylon Tate, too. He played a fine game tonight. His lone "turnover" was a brilliant pass that hit Nnanna Egwu in both hands, then one foot.
Rant over. It's Cliffmas Eve. Again I say "let's enjoy it."