I had an interesting perspective on Friday's exhibition game against Division II Lewis University.
SP didn't get its photo passes 'til Friday night. None of our regular photographers wanted to trek over without one. So I sat on the baseline, snapping all the shots. (You can tell, can't you?)
I like camping out under the basket. I can see the game much better than I do from my regular seat behind the opponent's Gatorade cooler. And I can hear what the participants say to each other.
The team looked bad, and almost lost to Lewis for the second time in as many tries. Although there's much to gripe about, I won't. It's an exhibition game. The coach was trying new things - rotating players, pressing, running an offense - so attempting to gauge anything from this performance is futile.
Instead, here is Bruce Weber's analysis of opening night:
For my part, I'll share some anecdotes.
LIFE IS NOT FAIR
Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard each changed pivot foot (traveled) prefatory to his first (unofficial) college bucket. Neither player was assessed a turnover.
Crandall Head, on the other hand, made a great fake before darting inside for a lay-up. Both Crandall's feet were glued to the floor. Natch, he was the only one whistled.
THE J-RICH SHOW
It no secret that Jereme Richmond is the center of media attention, if not the team.
Part of this fascination stems from Richmond's confidence. He conveys a heady blend of audacity and humility.
After making his first collegiate bucket, Jereme did something unusual. Before his and-one, Richmond stepped into the lane and (rather boldly) demanded the ball from referee Bob Donato. "Let me feel it," he said. Donato gave it to him. Jereme cradled the ball, gripping it, patting it. Then he gave it back and returned to the free throw line.
Richmond joined Mike Davis as player representative to the postgame press conference:
Uncle Crawford Richmond joined dad Bill and mom Kim Richmond to watch and tape Jereme's first ever Illini postgame presser.
DEMETRI McCAMEY FOR GOVERNOR
I refuse to vote for Pat Quinn, and I certainly won't vote for Bill Brady. But Demetri McCamey might be a persuasive candidate.
He's learned to negotiate. He knows how to talk to people. He can lead without being pushy. He's not afraid to accept a helping hand.
He seeks equal protection of the rules.
McCamey enjoyed a friendly chat with referee Frank Spencer, parsing the finer points of the charging rule. Spencer explained the difference between primary and secondary defenders as pertaining to the invisible "no-charge" circle, under the basket.
McCamey changed tactics, taking a less bold approach to the fast break lay-in. He got kicked in the shin.
CHECK YOUR HEAD
On the other hand, DJ Richardson might be the real leader.
"C'mon, think," said DJ to Demetri, pointing to his head on the first McCamey charge. It may have been "use your head," but you get the idea.
To my mind, DJ was the most focused of the guys on the floor. Moments later, he had his own steal/fast break. Not wanting to bother with trailers or defenders, he simply took flight and didn't come down again until the ball had cleared the iron. Meechi, for all his skeelz, has not shown this orbital capability. It can't be taught.
PADDING THE FIGURES
The Illini players are not known as bruisers. Bruise-evasion is more the idea, and it now involves sophisticated gear.
Mike Tisdale wore a quarterback's harness around his mid-section, to eliminate the temptation of elbow-throwing.
Brandon Paul seemed to have a coccyx pad. If not, he tucked his shirt in a tight square. Ostensibly this pad protects him on rough landings. Brandon's the most frequent flyer among the veterans.
All the players wear football-style thigh pads, concealed in their shorts.
THE NEW RECRUITS
Devin Langford came all the way from Huntsville, Alabama for the Lewis exhibition. Devin is a 6'6" senior guard.
This was his only and Official Visit, so microphones and notepads were not allowed to penetrate his orbit.
The NCAA's early signing period runs November 10–17; so we'll soon learn whether Devin liked Champaign.
Nnanna Egwu has already declared for Illinois. He made a rare trip to Champaign, along with his AAU coach Mike Mullins. They arrived late in the first half, and I just barely got a chance to pester him.
Nnanna Egwu speaks with a journalist who prefers to remain anonymous
Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins speaks with a journalist who prefers to remain nymous.
LA COSA BERARDINI
Kevin's family was on double duty Friday night, so only one parent and one sibling could attend. Brother Danny is in State College, PA. Danny is a gymnast (all-around, parallel bars, rings). A senior at Lake Forest High, he's been offered scholarships by every Big Ten school with a men's gymnastics team.
His extremely youthful father Don hopes Danny will choose Illinois. It saves travel. (Northwestern has no team.)