Well Santa, let's start right from the top with Head Coach Bruce Weber. Santa, I know last year Bruce Weber won almost every coaching award possible, including the National Coach of the Year. But what he has done again this year is truly amazing. He has put the right players on the floor each time out and has done a tremendous job with keeping everyone happy. Some guys start but others finish the game and, so far, no complaints. No win is guaranteed but if the Illini play their cards right, Weber could go into Big Ten play undefeated again. So this year could it be possible that Weber keep the Illini home court-winning streak going for another year?
Santa, Dee Brown is Illinois basketball and every day people argue if he's the favorite Illini of all time. This past Thanksgiving I had the chance to sit down with former Illini Kenny Battle and I asked him about that because most give that honor to him. This was Battle's quote, "At Illinois there's enough love to go around for the both of us." Santa, Dee Brown is the glue to this team and I know it's a dream of his to play in the NBA. For selfish reasons I'm glad he came back to Illinois for his senior year. Santa, because he's giving us a year long gift with his return, would it be possible for Dee to get in that first round NBA to guarantee him money and show people he can play in the NBA?
Santa, James Augustine came to Illinois as a kid with raw talent and each night out has gotten better. Ever since the UNC game when Weber told him to "bring it", every night Augie has done that and the Illinois basketball team is better because of it. Because of last year's cast, Santa, could Augie get some of that national attention he deserves? He's done all the dirty work over the years and now in his final season it would be nice to see his name get mentioned more with the other national studs.
Santa, my Rich McBride wish will be a very, very easy one. Keep this kid healthy; he's battled injuries and it has probably kept him from being one of the best shooters to ever suit up for Illinois. When he's healthy he can cause a lot of problems for opposing coaches in the Big Ten.
Santa, Brian Randle may be the best athlete Illinois has had in over 15 years. I don't know if Brian really understands the talent he's been blessed with. Santa, for him could we make it possible that he's not just another player on the court but the best player. This kid runs so fast and jumps so high the sky is the limit for him.
Santa, Jamar Smith has not been a surprise to me like he has for most, including the national media. Smith has been a great ambassador for the Illinois program and he's the nation's top three-point specialist from long distance. Not bad for a kid that wasn't a top 25 recruit. Smith is a kid Santa, that I really hope you bring joy to. Last year I called to speak to him after one of his games and during that interview I asked my son to take his inhaler before our game. Smith started to interview me about my son and told me all of his medical conditions and what the doctors did for him. Then he went on to give me all of these doctors names and other things we could do to keep him on the court longer. Santa, in the year of 2005 we just don't have many kids like Jamar. Can you bless him with whatever he wishes for?
Santa, Marcus Arnold has been a great addition to this team. He's like fine wine; he's getting better each time out. Down low he is taking the ball to the rim and getting to the foul line. Santa, he's not a starter and that's okay, but Santa, would it be possible for Marcus to trust that he can shoot that 10-foot jump shot - doing so would expand his game so much more.
Santa, Shaun Pruitt is the one true post presence we have on this team. Augie is tough and so is Marcus, but with Shaun's big body and smooth left-handed touch he could be a force down low. Every kid on this team loves the game but Shaun has worked hard to earn his starting position. Santa, would it be possible to see Shaun gain more confidence and have break-out game like just about every other player on the team?
Santa, last but not least, is Warren Carter. This kid, like Jamar, is a special kid to me probably because I know more about his personal life. Each year he keeps coming back and trying everything in his power to break the starting line-up. Santa, for this young man would it be possible to answer all of his wishes – I'm sure his are about basketball, but also other great things life has to offer.
Santa, this one is for the dedicated IB members. Thanks for being so loyal to us. Every day when I come here it's a blessing. I've met some of my best friends because of it. So I hope Mr. Claus brings you everything you ask for this Christmas.
My Ten Christmas Wishes
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