Illini Wonk
Saturday, February 25, 2006
  It's so hard to say goodbye
Tonight, Illini Wonk will have to watch the game against Iowa alone. It's not because he can't take the pressure of an important conference match-up. It's because I can't possibly see myself not tearing up at the thought of seeing James Augustine and Dee Brown introduced for their final game in Assembly Hall. Wonk won't be alone. Expect coach Bruce Weber to be emotional during the ceremony, as he ponders what the two have meant to a program that's gone 110-21 since the 2002-03 season. John Brumbaugh invites fans to get to Assembly Hall early and honor these two seniors with your applause, laughter, and probably tears.

Illinois has been playing basketball for 101 years and these two players have been here for four. But, it's hard to imagine the program without them. What will Illinois basketball look like without these two players who have done so much?

It's also hard to imagine where the program would be today had they not come to Illinois, but it almost didn't happen. As Stu Durando reminds us, Dee Brown was contemplating Michigan State and James Augustine was sold on Purdue. Once Dee was sold, he recruited Augustine and the rest is history. Now, on Senior Night, the two need one more victory for 111 in their career, which would join them at the hip in Illini record book. As Lucas Deal asks in the Daily Illini, Could it really have set up any better?

But, there is a game to be played. "That's why I'm not so emotional about it,'' Augustine said Thursday. "It's more of a basketball game than Senior Night. If we don't come out ready to play, they're going to beat us.'' Iowa comes into the game in a first place tie with Ohio State in the conference standings with Illinois and Wisconsin one game behind. The final three games are extremely important for Illinois' post-season prospects. Despite the fact that they are only one game out of first place in the conference, they are also only one game out of sixth place, with Michigan and Michigan State close behind.

Nevertheless, it will be hard to say goodbye to these two seniors and the media tributes are piling in. Lindsey Willhite writes that Dee Brown has been the face of the Illini. Jared Gelfond agrees and calls Augustine a Model of Consistency. Mark Tupper believes that it's time to honor Dee by retiring his jersey. The Northwest Herald includes Augustine, calling them the faces of the Illini and noting that they are simply known as "Dee and James."

As for the players, Brown can't believe it's coming to an end. Augustine says It's like a storybook happy ending. Illini Wonk agrees with both.

During the game, Illinois will unveil fans five favorite moments of each player's illustrious career. You can vote from among a list of ten each at Illinois' official site. I really don't know how you can pick only five, but give it a try. As for Illini Wonk, our poll simply asks: are they the greatest pair in Illinois basketball history? Be sure to vote on the top right and leave your comments below. Wonk still can't believe it's almost over...
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