Meacham Poised For Best Season

The years of doubt and insecurity are over. The ankle surgery is healed. What has emerged from the refiner's fire is a fifth year senior with maturity, confidence and a knowledge of how to help the Illini basketball team win games. Trent Meacham has come a long way.

The 6'-2", 195 guard from Champaign Centennial High School has suffered through criticism and injury in his years at Illinois. Transferring with no promise of a scholarship from Dayton after his freshman season, Trent Meacham toiled on the scout team while serving out his year of ineligibility.

When finally able to suit up for his beloved home town school, he found himself needing to meet the high expectations of a fandom accustomed to watching superstars like Deron Williams, Luther Head and Dee Brown man the guard spots. To make it worse, Trent hit 8 treys against Florida A & M early in his redshirt sophomore season, making folks assume he could do that all the time.

A good but not great athlete, Meacham started 31 games last season while enduring painful bone spurs in his ankle that limited his mobility and prevented him from practicing fully. He explains.

"The hardest part was practice. I really couldn't get to practice like I wanted. I couldn't put in the time or get enough out of practice. And that's what you need to do to continue to improve. I wasn't able to do that. This year I'm healthy and just blessed to be here."

With surgery now behind him, Trent has a chance to make his final year a memorable one.

"It's helped me so much. That's half the battle, staying healthy. And I was fortunate last year to be able to play. I only missed one game last year. But I'm much healthier this year. I have a little bit of the spring back in my step. I'm no high flyer, but I'm definitely moving better and jumping better. It's really encouraging to be able to do that."

Confidence allows one's heart to soar and mind to aspire to great things. Meacham's maturity is noticeable on and off the court.

"I think I have to be. I've been here three years, it's my fifth year in college and I'm excited for this year. I'm definitely more relaxed and confident. I know what to expect. I've been in a role as a starter, I've been in a role where I've been a spot player off the bench.

"So I think I know what to expect from the Big Ten season, even playing in the NCAA tournament, and we want to get back there this year. Hopefully, I can help this team do that."

Despite the travails, the years have sped by for the Academic All-Big Ten selection. He now is expected to help lead the team, and he's ready for the challenge.

"It seems crazy to be a senior. But I'm excited for the opportunities and responsibilities that come with that. I can be a leader on this team with Chester (Frazier) and Calvin (Brock), and I can help the young guys improve and have a great year."

Trent also sees a positive future for his young but potentially good team.

"Some of our big guys are really skilled, and they can get out and run. That's really gonna help us. We know we can do better than last year, so we're excited for this year. It's what we've been working for, and we're ready to go."

Coach Bruce Weber sees the maturity in Meacham and wants the young man to complete his career on a high note.

"I told Trent the other day, he doesn't have to prove anything anymore. I think he put pressure on himself. He's here, he's had huge games for us. Now, just have a great year and leave a mark that you helped Illinois have a successful year. He's a mature young man."

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