Illini basketball

The Unsung Henchmen

I didn’t have anything to say about Illini basketball. You didn’t want to read about Illini basketball. We obliged each other.

But now you’re excited. You can’t wait for Thursday. So between now and tip-off in Columbus, I’m going to share some things that stuck with me over the past few weeks.

Here’s one.

Two of the best moments of the season came during Braggin’ Rights. Illini fans might think they don’t want to be reminded about Braggin’ Rights 2018.

But these two plays should be remembered. They meant something to the people involved.

Today’s post concerns toughness, which is especially exemplified by guys whose names don’t feature in DraftExpress rumors, but probably merit attention in the scouting report.

You got the feeling, even before the game, that The Mark Smith Experience left a bad taste in the mouths of his former teammates. Even Amiable Aaron Jordan stiffened at the mention during the pre-game interview.

When Brad Underwood bemoans last year’s locker room, he doesn’t name names. Yet, a mustache comes to mind.

Whatever his former teammates felt about him, they did seem to make an extra effort in one-on-one confrontations. Samba Kane got in on the action, and he wasn’t even there!

Da’Monte Williams is the guy who told Brad Underwood he’d prefer not to start. Monte would rather study the opponent from the bench before making his entrance.

That makes sense, because the psychology of the game seems important to him. He needs to know what people are thinking, so he can get inside their heads.

The same goes for Andres Feliz. His anger & psychopathy extend to all areas of the game. He’s a sh!ttalker, a mindf*cker, and a straight up boxer, if you get uppity.

Did you notice how poorly B1G stars Glynn Watson and Cassius Winston fared this week at the SFC? That was Dre. He got up in their business.

Of course, the art of mindf*cking includes the defensive end: How to avoid retaliatory mindf*cking.

MSU tried to protect Winston by out-dirtying Feliz. It didn’t work. Dre simply ignored the jabs.

It’s great that Illinois has two budding stars, grabbing headlines. It’s great that those two led their team to clutch victories, hitting big shots and generating national buzz for a long dormant program.

As that was happening, you might have missed the contributions from guys who don’t talk much, and do much of their work in the shadows.

But I couldn’t help talking about it. It’s been a while.