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.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that both Aaron Bailey and Reilly O'Toole will get a lot of reps in practice this week, but he wouldn't say who will be the starter at quarterback when the Illini take the field in a week-and-a-half against Minnesota. Beckman did say Bailey will be a part of the game plan moving forward now that he isn't redshirting.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - What would've happened if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had played his college football at Illinois? Well it turns out, that's exactly where he wanted to play. Rodgers told The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday that Illinois was his first choice of schools, but they never offered. Instead he became an NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion as a product of Cal - instead of the Illini.
Illinois grad Steve Stricker also cheers for his hometown Wisconsin Badgers.
Illinois will use the week off to decide who will start against Minnesota: Aaron bailey or Reilly O'Toole?
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."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Almost nobody outside the Illinois locker room is giving the Illini any chance to win at Wisconsin this weekend. The Illini are 25.5 point underdogs against the Badgers. Talking to head coach Tim Beckman and the team this week, they're using their opportunity to show everybody everybody what they're made of. "I ask our players to play hard, and they're playing hard," Beckman said. "It comes down to me, and we've got make sure that our players are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing and just keep playing hard because it'll all come if we're playing with enough effort."
LANCASTER, Tex. - One of the next top targets on John Groce's recruiting wish list has set a date for his college decision. Dallas (Tex.) power forward Elijah Thomas said Tuesday he will make his announcement on October 21st during a press conference at his Lancaster (Tex.) high school. Thomas is a borderline five-star recruit, ranked by most scouting services as a Top 30 player in the 2015 class. Rivals.com ranks him as high as No. 20. Thomas is a 6-foot-9, 250 lb. big man, who took an official visit to Illinois alongside Illini-commit Jalen Coleman-Lands last month. Thomas will choose between Illinois, Oklahoma State, SMU, LSU and Texas A&M.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois freshman receiver Mike Dudek (Naperville, Illinois/Neuqua Valley HS) was added to the watch list for the 2014 Biletnikoff Award on Tuesday. The Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the nation’s top receiver. Dudek is having a steallar freshman season, currently standing 19th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total receiving yards (539) and second among FBS freshmen.
Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman said 'it's all about the players' at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. The response came after he questioned whether he feels the need to make a statement to the fans about his team.
Illinois lost to Purdue Saturday 38-27 and the pressure on Head Coach Tim Beckman only increases as the Illini fall to 1-17 in Big Ten games with him as head coach.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Mikey Dudek has made an immediate impact on the Illini football team this season, and now the true freshman is being recognized among the best freshmen nationwide. Dudek has been named to the watch list for the freshman of the year award given by the College Football Performance Awards. He is among the Top 10 in the conference in receiving yards, and he has proven to be one of Wes Lunt's favorite targets especially late in games. Dudek has caught for 339 yards and three touchdowns in his first five career games. "I've had a great time. It's been fun," said Dudek. "Definitely a lot of stress leading up to the games wanting to perform well. Becuase you put in all that work, and you don't want to see that work not pay off for you."
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.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Wes Lunt has declared himself ready to go this weekend vs. Purdue. Head coach Tim Beckman told reporters early Tuesday on a conference call that Lunt has been practicing as if he were 100% healthy; Lunt echoed that Tuesday night, and it looks like Illinois is moving forward with the hope that Lunt will be back under center against the Boilermakers.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) - The Fighting Illini baseball team will have an exciting opportunity to take a foreign tour trip to the Dominican Republic in November. The trip runs from Nov. 22-29 during the University of Illinois' Thanksgiving break week and includes games against multiple Dominican Summer League (DSL) teams. NCAA regulations allow teams to make foreign trips once every four years and this will be Illinois' first one taken in the modern era. "We are really excited about the opportunity to take our players to the Dominican Republic," head coach Dan Hartleb said. "I have been able to travel to the Dominican over the past two summers, and it has been interesting to see the work ethic and desire for the game of baseball in their culture. From a baseball standpoint, we are going to be playing some of the best players in the world at that age level. Each organization in Major League Baseball has a Dominican complex, so it will give us the chance to play eight games. All of our players will be able to play during the week, and it will help our development as we prepare for the 2015 season."
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said Monday he expects quarterback Wes Lunt to be healthy enough to start Saturday against Purdue. "He will be out there practicing today. Like we said, he was not one hundred percent. I don't think you take a quarterback and allow them to blitz like they did and play a quarterback that's not totally healthy," said Illinois Head Coach Tim Beckman about the decision to sit him against Nebraska.
Illinois sophomore quarterback Aaron Bailey will likely redshirt this season. He hasn't played a snap yet this year and Reilly O'Toole played the entire game against Nebraska. "We're not kidding anyone, Aaron's got a redshirt. We're going to play whoever is capable of winning the football game for us, but we're not going to play Aaron in a football game just to play him in a football game", said Illinois Head Coach Tim Beckman.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt sat out Injured as the Illini fell to Nebraska 45-14.
Highlights from the SJO Cross Country Spartan Classic.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - We'll find out later Thursday whether wide receiver Geronimo Allison will be cleared to play in Illinois' Big Ten opener at Nebraska Saturday night. Allison missed last week's game against Texas State with an injury, but he did participate with limited contact in practice this week. Of the guys that helped pick up the slack in Allison's absence Saturday was true freshman Mike Dudek, who got the start alongside fellow true freshman Malik Turner. Dudek caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown against Texas State. Dudek ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 19 catches this season.
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.
Freshmen Dylan Meyer was co-medalist in his first tournament with the Illini as he makes the most of his immediate playing time.
The Illinois defense got good news Monday. They'll need it as they prepare for a tough Nebraska team with the second leading rusher in the nation. Illini star defender Earnest Thomas has been cleared to play the entire game against Nebraska this Saturday. He was ejected from the Texas State game in the second quarter for targeting. That foul typically comes with a one game ejection (the second half of the Texas State game and first half of the Nebraska game), but the Big Ten will allow him to play after a misapplication of the rule.
illiniboard.com's Robert Rosenthal joins Matt Wettersten to talk Illini football.
The Illinois football team moves to 3-1 Saturday after defeating Texas State 42-35. Illinois had to come from behind to win and also sit through a 1:56 weather delay in the second quarter. Josh Ferguson rushed for a career high 190 yards. He had three total touchdowns as well. Illinois plays at Nebraska next week to open Big Ten play.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) - On Thursday afternoon at the Illinois Soccer Stadium, No. 22 Illinois earned its fifth shutout of the season, blanking Indiana 2-0 behind a set-piece goal in each half by senior Jannelle Flaws. Sophomore Claire Wheatleystopped a key penalty kick and collected her third solo shutout with help from the Illini back line that limited the Hoosiers to four shots. Illinois, which took 20 shots, held its opponent to single-digit shots for the sixth straight game, tying its school-record streak from 2005. "Every shutout we get feels good," head coach Janet Rayfieldsaid. "We wanted to make it a better defensive season compared to last year, and five shutouts shows we have really made a difference. Jannelle took advantage of both her opportunities on set pieces and Claire made a big save on a penalty kick that didn't allow Indiana to get back in it."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois football team isn't panicking after suffering their first loss of the season Saturday at Washington. In fact the Orange and Blue are keeping things positive as they look to pick up win No. 3 this weekend. Illinois ran into a buzz saw in Seattle, and some early mistakes were the difference. All things considered, they still feel like they sit in a pretty good position. "The first three games are done," said head coach Tim Beckman. "We're 2-and-1. I mean a lot of teams aren't 2-and-1, and we are. So we're happy to say that, yeah, we can make definite strides in everything we gotta do, but we've got 2 W's and we've got 1 L. So we're heading, at least moving in that direction we want to go."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois football team is dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense through the first three games of the season. In fact the Orange and Blue are getting less than 20% of their offense on the ground. That's one of the worst in the country. Early on the emphasis hasn't exactly been on running the ball. Only two Big Ten teams have run less often, but the success hasn't been there. The Illini are averaging a little better than 70 yards per game on the ground, and it's not just a running back problem.
ILLINOIS -- A former UI wrestler is a finalist for the Illinois Teacher of the Year.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt has been one of the best in the Big Ten so far this year, but he will be the first to admit Saturday's game at Washington wasn't one of his best. Lunt threw an interception that got run back for a touchdown, and then later he had the ball stripped away, and it was run back for a Washington score - a couple mistakes in what has been an otherwise outstanding start to Lunt's season. He was proud of the way his team responded in Seattle after he says he put his team in a tough spot.
Washington took a 35-3 lead early in the second quarter and never looked back. The Huskies defeated Illinois 44-19. Illinois hosts Texas State next week.
Latest: 1:20 pm, 9/12/14, Friday ADAMS COUNTY -- A former UI football standout and prosecutor is scheduled to appear in court Friday to face arraignment on the murder of his wife on Valentine's Day, 2006.
If the last few weeks are an indication of what's to come, Illinois is in for a high-scoring game when they visit Washington Saturday afternoon.
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.
LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill. - Stevenson point guard Jalen Brunson became the latest elite in-state recruit to spurn the Illini as the five-star talent announced Wednesday he will play college basketball at Villanova. Brunson is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 15 overall recruit in the Class of 2015. He took official visits to both Illinois and Villanova before pledging to join the Wildcats Wednesday. Brunson joins a short list of elite Illinois talents, who chose to go out of state for college hoops. Head coach John Groce will set his sights now on Dallas, Tex. point guard Jawun Evans, who took an official visit to Illinois last week.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Centennial football team received some bad news on Wednesday as senior quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald announced he tore his ACL in Saturday's win over Marion. Fitzgerald, who has verbally committed to play at Illinois, will miss the rest of the season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One thing was missing from Justin Hardee's career performance Saturday - his mother. She passed away in December after a long fight with lung disease. "That was my best friend," Hardee said. "She really didn't know how football went, but she only watched it because of me. That was very special to me."
Robert Rosenthal from illiniboard.com talks about the Illinois win against Western Kentucky and has a prediction for next week.
Wes Lunt's record-setting day guided the Illini over Western Kentucky 42-34. WCIA 3's Aaron Bennett has more from Memorial Stadium.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois defensive tackle Austin Teitsma put together the best individual performance on his Illinois career Saturday against Youngstown State, and he's hoping it's just the start of a huge senior season. Teitsma had a career-high nine tackles and two-and-a-half tackles for loss in Saturday's win, but he and the defense will be put to a different kind of test this week against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers ran 96 plays from scrimmage - and they play fast meaning Teitsma and his guys on the defensive line will be pushed to the limit.
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Could we see a revival of the Illinois-Missouri football series down the road? Missouri athletic director Mike Alden isn't shutting the door on that possibility. Alden told reporters Wednesday he is "all ears" when it comes to entertaining the idea of playing a neutral site football game, possibly against Illinois in St. Louis. The earliest that could happen would be 2019, but Alden says there hasn't been any in-depth discussion yet on renewing that series.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One of the biggest knocks on Illinois' defense last year was their inability to force turnovers. The Illini were dead last in the Big Ten in takeaways a year ago, and they didn't force a single turnover in Saturday's win over Youngstown State. The Illini had their opportunities against the Penguins. Mason Monheim dropped a sure interception after a pass hit him right in the hands, and Taylor Barton stripped a ball loose before it rolled out of bounds. A couple close calls, but head coach Tim Beckman says they have to capitalize on those opportunities.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- More than 100 women went to school Tuesday night, to learn the ABC's of playing hoops.