Large Group Of Recruits Highlights Madness

The Fighting Illini held their annual Midnight Madness Friday night at Huff Hall. Massachusetts DJ Steve Porter warmed up the young crowd while waiting for the team to arrive. A large number of visiting recruits enjoyed an informal scrimmage that lacked intensity but showcased Illini athleticism.

It was Joseph Bertrand night at Midnight Madness Friday. Three contests were held for the Illinois players prior to a brief scrimmage, and Bertrand won all three.

First of all, four Illini chose to dance briefly to music with a beat, and Bertrand was selected as the best dancer. It appeared most Illini players were shy about dancing publicly, but Bertrand displayed a big smile and comfort in front of the crowd. Brandon Paul did a brief break dance and was the likely runnerup.

Next was a game of Knock Out. Two groups of players took turns shooting, trying to knock out the player who followed. Bill Cole and Demetri McCamey were the finalists at one basket, while Bertrand and Tyler Griffey were the last standing at the other basket. In a shootoff, Bertrand defeated Cole for the win.

Bertrand, who won three consecutive Illinois High School dunk contests while attending Sterling, got off to a hot start in the dunk contest by hitting an impressive windmill dunk off a high bounce. His two dunks scored 38 and 37 points out of a possible 40. Seniors Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, McCamey and Cole were the judges.

Meyers Leonard, D.J. Richardson, Jereme Richmond and Paul also attempted dunks. The 7'-0" Leonard first hit with a two ball dunk and followed it up with a between-the-legs beauty that earned a perfect score. The other three performers all had trouble completing their dunks and had to settle for lesser scores.

Leonard and Bertrand were the finalists. Leonard awed the crowd by using walkon Kevin Berardini as a launching pad. He put one hand on Berardini's shoulder and jumped over him for the dunk. Some years that might have been a winner, but Bertrand topped him. He leaped over Richardson (with halloween mask) without pushing off him to complete a resounding dunk.

The scrimmage, if you wish to call it that, was brief and without competition. No one played defense, preferring to showcase individual talent. There were numerous dunks and a few behind the back passes as it was intended to be a fun exercise only.

The Illini had already held a strenuous workout earlier in the day, so there was little energy left for an intense competition. That will come October 24 at the Orange and Blue Scrimmage.

Thirty-three recruits were present. This is impressive due to the talent level represented and the fact they all showed up. Among the players at the event were Illinois commitments Tracy Abrams and Mycheal Henry plus Chasson Randle, on his official visit weekend.

Jabari Parker, Tommy Hamilton, DeJuan Marrero, Jahlil Okafor, Paul White, Larry Austin Jr., Marc Seylan, Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Paul Turner, C.J. Jones and two Cahokia players were among other recruits present.

While the turnout of recruits was outstanding, the crowd size was disappointing. Despite long lines outside Huff Hall waiting to enter, a large number of seats in the upper sections on both sides were empty. Perhaps the late hour and difficulty reaching the facility kept attendance down.

The Illini now have precious little time to hone their game prior to the beginning of the season. It was a fun evening, but from now on it will be a lot of hard work as the Illini prepare for what they hope will be a special year.

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