Jean Selus A Mystery Man For Illini

There is a mystery man on the Fighting Illini basketball team. Jean Selus has had an unusual life to this point, with frequent stops along the way. He is a self-made man, a product of the University of Hard Knocks. Most assume the walkon has minimal chance to prove himself and earn playing time, but stranger things have happened.

Jean Selus says it is too complicated to explain how he ended up at Illinois.

"I'm originally from Montreal, Canada. I came to the United States my sophomore year of high school. I went to high school near Toronto, and then I transferred to West Orange High School in Orlando, Florida. I was 15. It is too long a story. There was no actual reason, it just happened."

Similar complexities led Selus to play basketball at Parkland College in Champaign.

"That is a long story too. To make it short, the assistant coach at my high school, her family is from Champaign. That was the connection."

He graduated from Parkland but sat out a year before enrolling at Illinois. Why did he choose to walk on to Illini basketball program?

"My second year at Parkland, Sergio McClain was the coach. His dad is Wayne McClain (Illini assistant coach), so that was the connection. I worked hard to get here, and I wanted to give it a chance."

Nothing has come easily for the African Studies major. He wasn't even guaranteed a spot on the team. He had to earn that through a lengthy trial process.

"I played with them during the summer, but I never did the individual work. I had to get accepted into the school and then try out. So I was kind of like two months behind."

Selus describes his basketball skills.

"I think I can do a lot of things, but I've got to work at it. I'm a little bit athletic. My shot is not quite there yet, not like D.J. (Richardson) or (Mike) Tisdale; that takes a lot of practice. But I'll work at it, and we'll see next year."

Most walkons are extremely nervous upon playing their first Illini game. Not Selus. He calmly sank two free throws late in the Yale game last November.

"No, I was not nervous. Once you're in the game, you don't notice the crowd any more. You just focus on the task you have to do. You just run offense, run defense. So I'm not nervous at all. I am real comfortable out there."

Selus hopes to earn playing time as a senior. It has taken a year to learn the complexities of the Illini offensive and defensive schemes.

"Yes, that's basically true. I'm just gonna have to work really hard all season and during the summer. It's a lot of work, to be honest with you, but you never know. I didn't know I was gonna go to the U of I, but here I am. You never know what can happen."

Selus may not be a future NBA star, but he has already gone farther than some might have predicted. One way or the other, he appreciates the opportunity.

"I am grateful to be part of the team. There's many people who wish to be in my shoes right now. It's exciting."

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