The Illini defeated Wichita State (IlliniBoard.com's story) and Rutgers (IlliniBoard.com's story) en route to the South Padre Invitational Championship. James Augustine was named the South Padre Invitational's Most Valuable Player, and was joined on the All-Tournament team by the Illini's starting backcourt, Dee Brown and Rich McBride.
Some guy named Eric Gordon gave a verbal commitment to Bruce Weber and the Fighting Illini.
Tonight, the Illini take on North Carolina in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. The Inside Carolina preview focuses on the Point Of Emphasis, Illinois' Dee Brown.
"They've never seen anything like what they're about to see," Roy Williams said during Monday's press conference at the Smith Center. "For such a little guy, Brown is a big load. He has such tremendous speed and acceleration when he's coming at you that is about as good as anybody in college basketball. I can't think of anybody that pushes any faster than he does."Read IlliniBoard.com's preview of the North Carolina game for more coverage of tonight's game in Chapel Hill.
Now, I would like to get back to Eric Gordon and a few of the things that I have read on the message boards about the commitment, and how happy Illinois fans are. First, I was a little disappointed when I went over to Phog.net this evening and saw that there was a thread started on this commitment at 2:47 AM on November 28 announcing to Kansas fans that Gordon committed to Illinois. Since I think the banter between Kansas fans and Illinois fans on the two message boards has become more than juvenile this did not surprise me, but it was disappointing.
First of all, congratulations to Coach Weber, Coach Price, Coach Webster, and Coach McClain for landing the highest rated recruit Illinois has landed since Marcus Liberty. Yep, read that again, since Marcus Liberty. Just a great get, and next November cannot get here soon enough.
The thing that has now been said numerous times on the IlliniBoard.com Hoops Fan Forum is that this validates Bruce Weber as a recruiter. Unfortunately, I think those people are wrong. This commitment from Eric Gordon does not validate Bruce Weber's recruiting ability, the landing of Shaun Pruitt and Brian Carlwell did that, but what it does validate is that Bruce Weber can recruit at a level that will keep Illinois in contention for National Championships, and that is where I as an Illini fan want this program to be.
No one ever doubted Bruce Weber's ability to keep the Illini in contention for Big Ten Championships, 20-win seasons, and consistent trips to the NCAA Tournament, but I think the Illini Basketball has progressed from the point where those things are going to be enough to please the fan base. Landing a recruit like Eric Gordon is a great step in ensuring the Illinois basketball program will be one to be reckoned with in the future.
Now, I have had people ask me whether or not Illinois needs to land super star class after super star class like programs like North Carolina, Duke, and Kansas have done recently to be a competitive team on the national landscape. The simple answer to that question is, No!. What I would like to see from a recruiting class for Illinois is players in the Top 50-100 with one superstar (Burger All-American) every other year (though I would not mind more frequently). Classes like this year after year will allow the Illini to remain in the national limelight, and compete for National Championships, well into the future.
Now for the bad news, according to the half time show on ESPN, Bruce Weber has a broken ankle, and he will be in a walking boot on the sidelines for a while. I am sure the pain of the broken ankle was easily forgotten about when he remembered that Eric Gordon had committed to him, and he still is the coach of the #12 ranked University of Illinois.