Illini Wonk
Sunday, February 20, 2005
  Sunday Special
It's Sunday and time for Fighting Illini fans to kick back, grab a cup of coffee and follow the news on their team.

The Rev

Sunday is a day that many people in America spend worshipping God, including Illini Wonk here. Yesterday, ESPN College GameDay had a profile of Roger Powell Jr., Illinois power forward and lisenced pentecostal minister.

Powell talked about the two important aspects of his life: "I am a basketball player. I am a minister of the gospel. I got game. I got Christ." He leads the team in pre-game prayer, which Coach Bruce Weber calls "good for our team." The next step for Powell may be balancing a pro career in basketball with his "passion for the pulpit."

Sunday Profile: Nick Smith

In the newspapers, Sunday is the day for profiles, and today, following his best performance of the season against Iowa, Nick Smith earns profiles from Jim Benson in the Pantagraph, Marlen Garcia in the Chicago Tribune, John Supinie in the Peoria Journal-Star and Herb Gould in the Chicago Sun-Times. Mark Tupper makes Smith the topic of his column in the Decatur Herald & Review.

Will someone always step up?

Illini Wonk has repeatedly been amazed that someone different always seems to step up and will the Illini to victory. Weber wondered aloud if enough guys will continue to step up and Bernie Miklasz provides an answer in his column:

The answer is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That's 27 times, and we're still counting.

Could it get crazier?

Jay Mariotti, who acknowledges that Illini give me a group wedgie, says yes and that the media coverage will be crazy if Illinois reaches the NCAA tournament without a loss. In his column, Mariotti says I've quit pushing the idea that Illinois is better off losing a game before the NCAA tournament, and then he spends the rest of the column trying to convince readers that they would be better off with a loss. The people respectfully disagree. Then, in case any national media needed reminding, Mariotti suggests that Luther Head and Rich McBride's brush with the law will become a national story.

Let sleeping dogs lie?

Right on cue with Mariotti, the Chicago Tribune felt the need to run a front-page story on the 2003 incident. David Haugh drew the assignment and his story, titled Illini coach keeps it in the family, includes interviews with an alleged victim and his parents and the state's attorney. Posted on the portion of the Trib web site, it carries the no-it-all title: No slam dunk for justice. Haugh also has a short story on the successful second chance Weber gave to Rolan Roberts.

Illini Wonk has never felt the need to comment on this story, but the Trib has thrown done the gauntlet. Sports stories of this nature tend to involve two different kinds of players: 1) thugs you expect it (and more) from, and 2) good people who make mistakes. Head's actions since the incident clearly prove that he belongs in the latter category. He was apologetic and even offered to quit the team. Coach Weber and his teammates wouldn't let him.

But now, thanks to the story, 600,000 people read the story on Head, that is if you can believe their circulation figures following the inflation scandal at two Tribune Co. newspapers.

Tributes from the Trib

The sports pages of the Chicago Tribune try to make up for the front page assault with love showered on the Illini. Columnist Mike Downey pays tribute to their win under pressure here. Garcia celebrates the crunch bunch.

Illini News bits

In the midst of a tough 0-2 week, Bill Self says in the Los Angeles Times that he's happy for the Illini...The Illinois guard trio all made the 2005 NABC All-District first team...Press credential count at Iowa: more than 175...Number of Illinois fans at Iowa: 4,000 estimated...The Illini have begun to embrace the idea of an undefeated regular season...On his blog, Tupper says the Iowa game provided Illinois with their Play of the Year...on I, Max, host Max Kellerman said Illinois will be the 2005 NCAA champ...
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