From the Cheap Seats

IlliniBoard.com would like to introduce to you a new weekly columnist we have brought into the fold, Illinisports. He will be providing commentaries on the state of all Illinois athletics from the major sports, football and basketball, to the Olympic sports that get less main stream press and discussion. <br><br> In his first column for IllniBoard.com, Illinisports introduces himself and discusses the voting process for the Illinois Basketball All-Century Team.

One of the sayings etched into the base of the Alma Mater on the campus of the University of Illinois is the following: "To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greeting".

That simple phrase, provided by the graduating classes whose monetary contributions purchased the sculpting of the Alma Mater, really hit home with me. I had passed by the Alma Mater many times without thinking about who paid for it or what it signified. But upon reading those words, I realized that I was walking on a campus that was the home for many thousands of Illini before me. And like ghosts from out of a fog, here they were connecting with me and all who share the common experience of attending or visiting the University of Illinois.

These voices, many of whom had already passed on by the time I was in school, spoke to me in a way that was current for the time. In fact, it is still current today because we all share certain experiences that repeat themselves over time. Most of us assume our lives are somehow better, richer, more complex, more enlightening, and more evolved than our predecessors. But these voices knew we would make that mistake just like they did. And they decided to communicate with us, from the grave in a way, to remind us of our shared experiences and true commonality. My life became richer and deeper for the experience of sharing with those who preceded me on campus.

For this same reason, I am proud to say that John Brumbaugh has asked me to share my thoughts with you on a regular basis on IlliniBoard. I am grateful for the opportunity to share a perspective that has evolved over time to see current events for their relationship with lessons learned from the past. And how the past leads inexorably into the future.

I go by the name "Illinisports" now, but I was "allsports" on the original IlliniBoard, and I was "docj" on the old Big Ten Fan Forum. I am not yet an "old codger", being a baby boomer, although I do occasionally suffer from short term memory loss and other common physical debilities of middle age. So I guess some will say I am out of touch with their needs. But let me assure you that the main differences between the latest generation and previous ones is the details of their likes and dislikes. The cycles of life are the same, only the names and dates are changed to hide that wisdom from us.

I have decided to remain anonymous. One reason for this is that I wish to represent the "silent majority", Illini fans who read the board regularly, post only rarely if at all, but have an undying love for the Illini. Brumby has a vision that inevitably must include these fans, and he hopes my columns will help encourage all of you to continue reading, thinking, and discussing. There are numerous posters who communicate frequently on the various forums. But there are many more who remain in the background. It is hoped that all can benefit. Thus, my anonymity is a reminder of everyone's right to speak their minds without partiality or prejudice.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I will share my perspective, but everyone has a right to their own views. I already know of a few who will be less than thrilled with my columns, but I also hope there will be many others who will appreciate Brumby's vision. I wish to stimulate discussion that will benefit the vast majority of participants of this website.

With that introduction aside, and keeping with the theme of how the past connects with the present, I would like to discuss the voting for the All-Century team. Some are perturbed that we must select at least three representatives from the period from 1906 to 1947, and three more from 1948 to 1975. Most voters have never seen any of these players play, and the more recent ones are mighty good. But there were some outstanding basketball players in the past, and their inclusion is a tribute to that truth. I for one am glad that the Centennial Committee saw fit to include these athletes.

True, I have seen almost none of these players in action. But what we must consider, I believe, is how they compared with their peers at the time they played. Certainly, athletes today are superior in training, conditioning, and skills simply because they have been given opportunities unavailable to their predecessors. But I bet you that you could take a Chuck Carney, who was a 1st team All-American two different years, train him from childhood to be an outstanding player, and he would excel today. I once saw a photo of Carney extending for a long pass for the Illini football team (he was an All-American in football also) that rivaled anything we saw with Brandon Lloyd or Walter Young. And that was at a time when few passes were even attempted. How could anyone not see Chuck Carney as deserving of the All-Century team?

The same could be said for a number of others on the early lists. The following players made First Team All-American for at least one organization during those early years: Ray Woods (3 times), Chuck Alwood, Earl Anderson, Lou Boudreau, Louis "Pick" Dehner (2 times), and Bill Hapac. Andy Phillip of Whiz Kid fame was a first teamer on at least one team for three different years, culminating as a consensus All-American his senior year. Every one of the Whiz Kids made at least honorable mention All-American. And how can we overlook the contributions of player/coaches such as Douglas Mills (also athletic director) and Harry Combes. I am leaving some talented players out, but they all deserve the right to compete for our All-Century team.

If prospective voters decide to use the formula of comparing players with their peers at the time they played, our ballots would be filled with the early players. After all, we have not had a consensus All-American since Andy Phillip. We have had a number of players receive honorable mention A-A, and we have had a few that were 1st, 2nd or 3rd team selections on one or more teams. But compared with their peers, some of the early players were special.

Obviously, most of these players will be overlooked in the voting. We will select an outstanding team that most of us will be proud to claim as our own despite an absense of more than the three required selections from the earliest years.

All I ask is that we pay proper respect to those who have come before. After all, they paved the way for the present. They are gone, but they are not yet forgotten. One might say it is their arms that reach out from the Alma Mater, wishing to connect the past to the present. After all, we are all Illini.



Illinisports

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