Illinois Announces Centennial Basketball Plans

<b>CHAMPAIGN, IL</b> -A century of University of Illinois basketball tradition and excellence will be celebrated during the 2004-05 season as the Illini play their 100th year of varsity basketball.

"The tradition of Illinois basketball ranks among the best in the nation," coach Bruce Weber said. "Illini basketball is a passion with fans throughout the state of Illinois and alums around the world. Our players should be motivated by this being a special season. It's so important for everyone ever associated with the Illini program to remain connected and feel a part of what we're doing. It should make next year very exciting with all the special things being planned."

Illinois ranks as the 16th-winningest basketball program in the history of the game with more than 1,470 wins since its very first game on Jan. 12, 1906. The Illini have won or shared 15 Big Ten championships, played in 23 NCAA Tournaments and advanced to four Final Fours since Elwood Brown coached the first Illinois basketball squad.

A year-long celebration will be highlighted with a reunion weekend around a Big Ten game in January with all former players, coaches, managers and support staff invited to participate. The season will tip-off with Illini Basketball Madness the weekend of Oct. 15-16 when practice can officially begin.

For now, fans have an opportunity to help select the 15-man Illinois All-Century Team by voting on-line at beginning Feb. 18. Fans can vote one time for up to 15 players on the 83-man ballot, or write-in their own favorite Illini letterwinner. Voting will continue through April 5 when the national championship game is played in San Antonio.

Plans also include a book on the history of Illini basketball co-authored by long-time Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette sports editor Loren Tate and Illinois graduate Jared Gelfond. The UI is also considering a video project, "Turn Back the Clock" game with throwback jerseys, memorabilia display at the Assembly Hall, Radio Special Moments CD, street banners, promotional items, special merchandise and special features and contests on the web site. A unique Illinois Basketball Centennial logo was produced by Collegiate Licensing Company of Atlanta, Ga., that will be used extensively throughout the season.

"We hope that Illini fans everywhere will want to be involved in this historic season," Centennial Committee Chairman Rod Cardinal said. "We've reached a lot of former players and persons connected with the program. The response we've received so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and it will continue to be so as we move closer to next season."

Story courtesy the University of Illinois Sports Information Department

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