This season, the University of Illinois basketball team will likely take the phrase so often uttered by their woolly neighbors just three hours to the north, “Wait ‘Til Next Year”, to a whole new level.
That’s because many Illini fans may have been saying it before this season even began. In case you hadn’t heard, 2009 is when Bruce Weber’s first crop of prize recruits since becoming the head coach of the Illini five years ago, start strolling into Chambana.
Four players, guards D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, and Joseph Bertrand, along with forward Tyler Griffey are all ranked in the top 100 nationally and currently give the Illini the 8th-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals.com.
Throw in five-star verbal commitments from small forward Jereme Richmond and shooting guard Crandall Head for 2010 and all of a sudden the Illini, who started to take on the look of a mid-major program Weber supposedly left behind, might again start to resemble the national power we were hoping “Bail” Self was going to build before bolting for the only place where the Earth’s crust is flatter and more boring to look at than Central Illinois – that being Kansas.
Of course, this is all assuming that Kelvin Sampson doesn’t somehow worm his way back into college basketball and give all these guys’ fathers cushy jobs.