CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois students got a chance to try and beat Illini basketball coach John Groce at his own game Wednesday morning. Groce was on the quad playing pop-a-shot to help the university promote its social media outlets. The school is trying to reach more students through twitter. So what better way than to have one of the most recognizable and popular faces on campus challenge students to a game of basketball between classes.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Friends and family got together in Champaign Wednesday to remember Wayne McClain. The Central High School basketball coach, and former Illinois assistant, was laid to rest Wednesday after he lost his battle with lung cancer and pneumonia last week. Thousands came to celebrate McClain's life at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign. They remembered the four state titles McClain helped Peoria Manual win in the mid-1990s, but his contributions to Illini basketball came to the forefront. Dozens of former Illinois players and coaches were there, including Bruce Weber, Bill Self, Deron Williams, Jerrance Howard, Marcus Griffin and others.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Sergio McClain always knew his dad was one-of-a-kind. "I've never met anybody like that that has taken life by the horns and yanked them off," he said. Wayne McClain was a fighter to the very end, and he waited until his final days to tell his family he had been battling lung cancer. His son Sergio found out when he overheard the doctors tell his dad that the cancer was terminal, and he was running out of time.
CHICAGO, Ill. - The Illinois basketball team received four votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll released Thursday. The Big Ten is projected to be one of the nation's toughest conferences once again this season. At the league's media day in Chicago Thursday, Wisconsin was tabbed as the unanimous favorite. WCIA 3's Bret Beherns was there and has more on the Illini.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - For many, Wayne McClain's legacy will be remembered by his accomplishments on the court, and there are too many to count. But his former players and colleagues didn't talk about his wins and losses on Wednesday; instead they remembered a man whose impact was felt far beyond basketball. "The kids all looked up to him as a father figure," said Dick Van Scyoc, who preceded McClain as Peoria Manual head coach and served as McClain's mentor. "Not having maybe a dad at home he was somebody they could go to and cry on his shoulder."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The central Illinois community lost a coaching icon Wednesday. Central basketball coach, and former Illinois assistant, Wayne McClain died early Wednesday. He had been in the hospital since Friday battling pneumonia. McClain was 59 years old.
Illinois point guard Tracy Abrams talks with WCIA 3's Aaron Bennett about his season-ending ACL injury, and how he'll continue to play a leadership role even though he won't be on the court this season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois head coach John Groce called this year's team the deepest and most experienced team he has had in his three years in Champaign. He also challenged his team to be in the best shape of any team he has ever coached. Groce also says he has been preaching the "2 D's"- discipline and details - in hopes of bringing this team back to the NCAA Tournament. "We're certainly grateful for the opportunity to be in postseason play last year, but all of us would've rather been in the other postseason tournament," said Groce. "When you miss that by the hair of your chinny chin chin, and you feel that, I think it really really accentuates and makes those details and the discipline that's required both on and off the court to be a champion come more to light, and it makes them value and appreciate those things even more."
Illini senior Nnanna Egwu talks with WCIA 3's Bret Beherns about his game and having no regrets when his senior season is finished.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - We are less than a month away from the Illinois basketball team's one and only exhibition game of the year, and on Thursday head coach John Groce talked about some of his expectations for this year's team, saying it is the deepest and most experienced team in his three years with the orange and blue. But of course most of the headlines this offseason came on the recruiting trail. Groce secured a commitment from four-star combo guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, but he also missed on a few four- and five-star recruits like Jalen Brunson and Jawun Evans. We will get a decision from Top 30 recruit Elijah Thomas in a couple weeks, and Groce said Thursday even though he has missed a handful of big recruits, he won't be toning down his approach or lowering his standards anytime soon. "We're very aggressive in everything that we do," said Groce. "We try to attack, be aggressive, and obviously we want to do it with purpose. I think that's important. You don't want to swing blind - or blindfolded. It's not like we're trying to hit a pinata. I do think that's important as well. I've got great assistant coaches. We've done a great job in that area, and we're going to continue to try to find Illini guys."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois women's basketball head coach Matt Bollant expects his team to take a big step forward this season after going just 2-14 in the Big Ten last year. A lot of those high expectations fall on the shoulders of freshman - and McDonald's All-American - Chatrice White. White should start immediately, and Bollant says she has been leading the team in scoring and rebounding so far in practice - even going as far as to call her a "program-changing" recruit even before she has played in a game. "She is everything we had hoped she would be," Bollant said. "The one thing about talented players, they tend to get better. Our practices are really intense. We have a lot of detail, and she wants to learn. She picks up things really fast. The great thing is she's a great passer as well, and so getting her touches is going to be really important, so she'll score or be able to find open shooters when she gets touches."
DALLAS, Tex. - John Groce received some more tough recruiting news Wednesday as five-star point guard Jawun Evans (Kimball H.S., Dallas, Tex.) verbally committed to Oklahoma State, choosing the Cowboys over the Fighting Illini. Evans is ranked among the Top 35 players in the country in the 2015 class. Illinois was considered the leader for the Dallas native earlier this summer, but Oklahoma State made a strong push toward the end.
LA PORTE, Ind. - When John Groce got the job two and a half years ago, Jalen Coleman-Lands was one of his top prospects. The 4-star combo guard is the second rated recruit in Indiana and is regarded as one of the best scorers in the 2015 class. He picked Illinois over UNLV and his home state Hoosiers. When he suits up next year at State Farm Center, he'll be the first player from Indiana to play at Illinois in 30 years. "I don't really care too much about what everyone else has to say," Coleman-Lands said of the pressure to stay in his home state. "Personally I felt like it was the right decision for me."
LA PORTE, Ind. - John Groce landed a verbal commitment Tuesday from one of the top available players in the Class of 2015, and it took some rare recruiting success in the state of Indiana to get him. Four-star combo guard Jalen Coleman, who is an Indianapolis native, announced Tuesday afternoon he will play for Illinois. "The reason I chose the University of Illinois is because they offer everything I was looking for in a school: academics, in particular the business program; the basketball system and level of competition in the Big 10; and the quality of Coach Groce and his staff," Coleman said in a statement.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois basketball team got some bad news Thursday. Head coach John Groce announced starting point guard Tracy Abrams tore his right ACL during a preseason skill workout and will miss the entire upcoming season. Abrams will redshirt this season, and then have one year left to play. It's a big loss, though, for this year's team. Abrams was Illinois' second-leading scorer last year, averaging nearly 11 points per game. He led the team in assists and was second in minutes and steals.
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. - For the third time in the last year John Groce and the Illinois basketball team are the bridesmaids. Illinois' top prospect, Stevenson point guard Jalen Brunson, chose to return to his family's roots picking Philadelphia's Villanova over Champaign and the Illini. Brunson's decision comes just ten months after Quentin Snider decommitted from the Orange and Blue in favor of Louisville. That same day, Curie big man Cliff Alexander chose Kansas over Illinois in what will forever be remembered as the hat fake. Brunson left out the drama Wednesday. He simply unzipped his sweatshirt revealing a Villanova shirt - and hat.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - For the second straight weekend John Groce will host one of the best point guard recruits in the country when Jawun Evans begins his official visit to Champaign Friday. Evans is a four-star recruit from Dallas, Tex. (Kimball HS), and he is ranked among the Top 30 recruits nationwide in the 2015 class.
Five star Stevenson point guard Jalen Brunson took an official visit to Illinois this weekend. He was at the football game Saturday. He is a top Illini recruiting target. Brunson is ranked as the 15th best prospect in the class of 2015 according to rivals.com.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The game time is now set for the Braggin' Rights game against Missouri. The U of I announced Friday that the game will tip off at 1:00 pm CT on December 20th and will be televised on ESPN 2. Meanwhile the Big Ten schedule was released Thursday night, and the big thing that stands out immediately is that Illinois opens up with four of their first five games on the road - including back-to-back games at Michigan at Ohio State. It's a tough way to start, but it makes finishing strong all the more important.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Big Ten schedules for both the men's and women's basketball seasons were released Thursday.
URBANA, Ill. - Former Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson held his 13th annual Illini Rebounders golf outing Wednesday afternoon at Stone Creek in Urbana. All the proceeds benefit the Illinois basketball program.
Champaign Centennial graduate Michael Finke, now a freshman on the Illinois basketball team, accepted Aaron Bennett's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - and issued a few more challenges to his Illini teammates.
Former Illinois basketball player Brett Melton has spent the last few days giving back to his hometown. Melton was a standout player at Mahomet-Seymour in the late 90's. Bad ankles forced him to transfer after just two seasons with the Illini, but as our Bret Beherns shows us, Melton still bleeds orange and blue.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois Board of Trustees officially approved a contract extension and raise for men's basketball coach John Groce on Thursday. Groce gets a one-year extension that runs through the end of the 2018-2019 season, and a $100,000 raise that brings his total salary up to $1.7 million. This is the second extension and raise Groce has received in his two years at Illinois. He has a 43-28 overall record with the Illini, which includes one NCAA Tournament berth and one NIT appearance.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced Wednesday Warren Hood will replace Tom Michael as senior associate athletic director overseeing the State Farm Center renovation, after Michael was introduced Tuesday as athletic director at Eastern Illinois.
After playing professional basketball for three seasons in Paris, France, former Illinois basketball standout and Centennial alum Trent Meacham is looking for a new place to play in Europe next year.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois basketball will add EIU-transfer Alex Austin as a walk-on, Austin confirmed to WCIA 3. Austin played two seasons at Eastern Illinois before announcing he would transfer elsewhere. The Mt. Carmel grad averaged 7.0 ppg as a sophomore last season at EIU. That's a decrease from his 9.3 ppg average as a freshman. Austin will have to sit out this season, due to NCAA transfer rules, and then he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
SAVOY, Ill. - Former Illinois basketball star Kendall Gill was back in town Monday for his 25th annual golf outing to benefit Cunningham Children's Home. The event has been a hit every year since Gill graduated from the U of I more than two decades ago, and he never misses an opportunity to come back. "Cunningham Children's Home is definitely the beneficiary of everything we do," Gill said. "And we're just glad to bring attention to their cause and what they're trying to do."
CHICAGO, Ill. - A committee of trustees presented a plan Thursday that would give Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce a raise and contract extension, and all it needs is approval by the full Board of Trustees later this month. The Governance, Personnel and Ethics committee met Thursday in Chicago and recommended rewarding Groce with a $100,000 raise and a one-year contract extension. The raise would bring his salary to $1.7 million, and the extension would keep him under contract through the 2018-2019 season. This is already the second raise and extension Groce has received in his two years at Illinois. He has one NCAA Tournament appearance and one NIT berth so far at Illinois. The full Board of Trustees will meet July 24 to approve the raise and extension.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's basketball team will have to move as many as five home basketball games away from State Farm Center in November 2015 because of construction on the arena. A U of I spokesman said Monday the athletic department has known for quite some time that the arena wouldn't be available for the beginning of the year.
The Illinois men's basketball team has plenty of guards this season. Eight players are listed as guards on the roster, giving Illini head coach John Groce plenty to work with.
Illinois senior point guard Tracy Abrams is using last year's adversity to fuel his workouts this summer.
Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn is still not 100% after knee surgery more than two months ago. The sophomore is expected to be a full participant in practice next week.
Illinois sophomore Malcolm Hill is making big gains on and off the court this summer. The Belleville native has gained 21 pounds as he tries to take his game and body to the next level.
Illinois sophomore Sarah Livingston is leaving the women's basketball program after one season with the Illini. The Morton native is heading to the University of Southern California to play volleyball.
Illinois freshmen basketball players Leron Black and Michael Finke are adjusting to life as college basketball players.
Illinois basketball recruit Aaron Jordan is working hard this summer on his game and in the weight room. The 2015 shooting guard is looking to gain weight by lifting with football players.
Former Illinois basketball standout Meyers Leonard is spending the summer working on his game, trying to become a full-time player with Portland TrailBlazers.
The Illinois men's basketball team spent the last four days training with former Navy SEALs, learning about teamwork, communication and leadership.
CHICAGO - No matter how far away basketball takes Dee Brown, he's always wearing his orange and blue. He keeps close tabs on the Illini - watching them on TV any chance he gets. As we finish our three-part series in-depth with Dee, he talks recruiting, his relationship with John Groce, and his dream of one day coaching at Illinois.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Some of the University of Illinois' all-time great basketball players are on board with the U of I's plan to try to land the IHSA boys and girls state basketball tournaments beginning in 2016. Players from the 1988-89 Flyin' Illini, a team made up of exclusively in-state players, have been some of the most outspoken advocates for bringing the tournament back to State Farm Center.
CHICAGO, Ill. - For the last decade Dee Brown has put together a successful basketball career - both in the NBA and overseas - but its what he does off the court that makes him just as proud.
CHICAGO - After seven seasons overseas playing in six different countries, former Illinois star Dee Brown is now a free agent waiting to find out which team will sign him for next season. "I moved back to Chicago maybe three weeks ago," Brown said. "Just been working out, getting ready for next season. The process in the summer is you're just working out, staying healthy, staying sharp on your game. Waiting for your agent to shop you around. For me it's always tough because you never know where you're going to end up."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois junior Aaron Cosby is hoping to make a big impact this season, now that he is eligible to play after transferring in from Seton Hall. Cosby actually spent some time in China last month playing against some of the local teams from the Far East.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) – University of Illinois head coach Matt Bollant announced the signing of senior guard Brittany Carter to the Fighting Illini roster on Thursday. Carter will be eligible for the 2014-15 season and will have one year of eligibility remaining after graduating from Ball State in three years.
Former Illini great Dee Brown sat down with WCIA 3 to talk about baseball, music, family and coaching. Here he talks about recruiting Chicago and why John Groce can't win without the Windy City's elite talent.
PORT ARTHUR, Tex. - Darius Paul's new head coach at Lamar State - Port Arthur, Lance Madison, says he's excited to have suspended Illini forward Darius Paul join his team, and his main goal is to help Paul improve as both a person and a player. "Darius made some poor decisions," Madison said. "And I think part of his process being here is developing some personal growth. Hopefully Darius will mature as a person and make good decisions. We want him to be successful, and we're going to try to give him all the resources to be a successful student here at Lamar State."
GURNEE, Ill. - Suspended Illinois forward Darius Paul has decided to play junior college basketball next year. Paul has signed a letter of intent with Lamar State College - Port Arthur, according to the NJCAA website. Paul was suspended for the entire upcoming Illinois season following two failed drug tests and an arrest. He has said he wants to finish his career at Illinois, and that still could be possible. After one year at a junior college, Paul could come back to Division I basketball for the 2015-2016 season.
PEORIA, Ill. - Illinois basketball coach John Groce wants Darius Paul back, and insists Paul is still a "part of [the] family," but wouldn't elaborate Thursday night on what Paul's path back to the team will entail.
URBANA, Ill. - We are learning more about the circumstances that led to Darius Paul's season-long suspension from the Illinois basketball team. According to police records, Paul admitted to officers he has failed two drug tests for marijuana since transferring to Illinois from Western Michigan.