Illini basketball

The Coleman & #ILLijah weekend

Jamall Walker and edotcash Elijah ThomasIf your head was stuck under a rock for the last few days, you’ll want to know that Jalen Coleman and Elijah Thomas Officially Visited the University of Illinois this weekend.  Jalen came with his family. Elijah was accompanied by his mother, Delores Bennett, and  AAU coach Darius Coleman (no relation).

Official Visitors are off-limits to the media, so I didn’t have a chance to ask Elijah or Jalen about their visits, or even say hello to their families. (The NCAA is a very, very silly organization.)

As usual, the only major public appearance was a football game. In this case, a lousy first quarter of a football game, in a slightly sweltering late summer sun.

By kickoff, the Elijah Thomas Official Visit was more than halfway over. The Jalen Coleman Official Visit was just beginning. Another NCAA rule confines these visits to 48 hours, and Thomas’s visit was Friday-Saturday, while Coleman’s was Saturday-Sunday.

Thus, the Illini coaching staff was forced by circumstance to vary from standard operating procedure. Jamall Walker took over with the Thomas family, while John Groce greeted the Colemans.

They all came together in the grandstands, and Groce sat between the two families. But by that point, the focus was mostly on the Colemans.  Except for Darius Coleman, who was not with the Colemans. Weird.

The families and coaches barely had time to get acquainted before an Act of God drove them apart.

The Lord, it seems, has taken notice of John Groce and his recruiting efforts. This makes sense, because John Groce talks to The Lord every day, and often shares The Lord’s message with recruits.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and men have failed to correctly interpret His message for about 6,000 years. Some people might interpret yesterday’s two hour lightning delay as an accident of meteorology. But as the skies opened up Saturday, I realized what He was trying to say, I think.

It is this: “Get thee behind me, Edotcash.”

I’m not absolutely sure that this was the message, because The Lord speaks in thunder. It might have simply been “Illinois is a basketball school.”

Either way, the power of The Lord is mighty to behold. On Saturday, The Lord chased an entire football stadium’s spectators indoors. Coleman and Thomas were among them.


Thomas and Coleman were in the student section when The Lord spoke. The visit to the student section has become something of a ritual. On this particular Saturday, it came early.

Toward the end of the first quarter, U of I police officer A.J. Martin informed the staff that a major storm was on the way, and that the stadium would probably be emptied soon. At that point, Mike LaTulip, Aaron Cosby and Aaron Jordan led the Official Visitors out of the grandstand, out of the stadium, and over to the student section — a separate building at the north end of Memorial Stadium.


Jalen Coleman seemed distinctly amused by the visit to the Block-I.

The visit was brief, perhaps even a little rushed. But it allowed the visitors to get a taste of local hero worship. As they climbed into the Block-I, semi-intoxicated engineers and finance majors chanted  “We want Elijah!”

“And Jalen too!”

“Oh yeah, and definitely Jalen too!”

(You may think this chant lacks a certain panache, or euphony. Organized chanting is not the forte of the Block-I, which had a lot more members back when Illini football was relevant.)

Malcolm Hill, Michael Finke and Ahmad Starks were also watching the game from the student section. They too took cover in the Irwin Center. And that reminds me, if you say “Michael Finke is the Bees’ Knees” while ordering your fro-yo, you’ll get a dollar off at TCBY. Dig it.

The adults were separated from their phenom offspring at the moment of The Lord’s intervention. Jamall Walker took charge, coordinating the emergency/contingency planning: The recruits went out for a late lunch.  You might call it “supper.”  If they were British, “tea.”  Whatever.  High school athletes can eat more than you think.

Later, they went to look at dorm rooms, to see how they’d actually be living (large) were they to choose the University of Illinois.

Thomas spent much of the day looking at his pink smartphone. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that he was bored by his Official Visit. Rather, I would say that he’s a high school senior and it’s 2014.  @edotcash is fully entrenched with social media #ILLijah


And to the extent that he seemed disengaged from the Illini staff as their attention shifted to the Jalen Coleman family, it’s important to note that Elijah has already declared a lifelong fealty toward John Groce, for a national audience.

Then you’ve got Illinois; Coach Groce is the most interesting of them all.

That’s my guy! If I didn’t pick Illinois I would still keep in touch with him. They were the second school to ever offer me a scholarship and we’ve built a relationship over the past few years that’s strong. Coach Groce has a plan for me that he shows me word-for-word; I like that. The Big Ten is a great conference and they’ve got D.J. Williams coming in, and I know that we could make noise. Then you’ve got the fan base; it’s hands down the best fan base I’ve ever seen and I was recruited by Kentucky and Duke, but those Illinois fans are the best I’ve seen.


Jalen Coleman did not stare at his phone all day. He listened intently to the pitch John Groce and staff  (and Allison Groce) laid out.


By Sunday morning, the #ILLijah contingent (@msDDdee, @dcoleman05 and @edotcash himself) was en route back to Texas. But Delores left the Illini nation feeling good about the weekend.





Illini basketball

How Tracy Abrams’s injury helps Illini basketball

Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice play the same position. They were the twin Achilles of Illinois basketball,  2014.

Achilles was the fiercest hero of his age . But these days, he’s better known for the ankle his mother held while dipping him in Styx, a river of invulnerability juice (and namesake of the cloying , medicare-eligible soft-rock band) which flows into hell.

Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice performed the role of Achilles, individually, throughout the season.  Each is a warrior. Each is tough as nails. Each drives fearlessly toward the hoop, and trios of defenders. Each shoots under 30% from three-point range.  Neither displayed a knack for the kick-out pass.  That’s the Achilles Heel they share: When Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams drive to the hoop, they become predictable, one dimensional.

That’s not the same as vincible. Even if you know what Ray is going to do, you’ll have a hard time stopping him. Tracy is easier to defend in this situation. But either would be far more effective if he featured one more weapon in his arsenal: the unexpected pass.

Ray played point guard some of the time. Tracy has played both guard positions during his Illini tenure.  In 2014, Tracy averaged 3.2 assists per game, Ray 1.5.

John Groce will be hard pressed to equal the defensive presence of 2014. Ray + Tracy works well on the defensive end.  Of the remaining Illini who play point (Jaylon Tate, Ahmad Starks, Mike LaTulip), none is as good defensively.

Tracy Abrams likely won’t play in 2014-15. After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the only scenario that has Abrams playing this year is a Brian Randle-esque take-one-for-the-team offer to forego a year of eligibility because Illinois needs him to seal a championship.

But every cloud has a silver lining. And when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.



So what’s the bright side of losing Tracy Abrams for the year?  I asked Paris Parham and Jamall Walker.


I don’t know if there’s a bright side right now. We just gotta see how things shake out. Obviously we’ve got a lot of options, more than we had in the past, but  … I don’t know.

It’s so new, so fresh. It could work out to be something special and it could be worse. You just don’t know, you know?


I don’t think there’s a benefit. It’s just that he’s going to come back next year, and he’ll definitely be the team leader again next year.


We haven’t really done a lot since he’s been hurt, so I can’t tell you. But I do know what’s positive about it is that other guys are going to have opportunities to make a case for themselves to play more minutes, and impact the team more.

In the case of Ahmad Starks or (Aaron) Cosby, that’s opportunity for them. Obviously other guys are going to have to step into bigger roles in the leadership area. It’s going to make guys step up more in that area too.


He’ll be the lead from the bench this year, and then definitely come back and be that team leader next year for a team that was probably going to be searching for a leader, you know?

That’s the only benefit there might be: that he is our true leader on the court, and in the locker room. It’s a blessing to have him around for two more years, to be That Guy.


He’s impactual, as far as a leader. For all the things he does sometimes that probably drive the staff crazy — or fans — there’s a lot of things that go unnoticed that he does, that are not on the court.

Will Aaron Cosby play point guard at all?

Parham gave an emphatic “no.” Walker was more circumspect.


I don’t think so. I mean, again this is so fresh and new …

Our first year we experimented with a couple of people at the point before going with BP (Brandon Paul) officially, and he wound up making it. So you never know. I don’t see that  (Cosby at PG) happening, but I think some people are going to have some options. Ray’s an option, for sure. He played it last year.

Ray and Tracy play the same position, and their primary weakness has been passing from the interior. Can that be overcome?


Yeah, it’ll be a little bit different now because we have so many shooters around. We got some guys that can finish at the rim now with Leron (Black).

It’ll be easier for Ray to get to the basket now.

Is it a selling point, for recruits who play the PG position, that they’ll be going against a top defender (Abrams) in practice?


You could say that. But I don’t know if that’s going to affect a kid or not.  It doesn’t seem like it has. But you never know how kids … if I knew how recruits thought, I’d be a genius.


I don’t think you use that as a selling point. Just the fact that you’ve got a veteran guy that you can learn from — or a guy that you could play with. Because Tracy really would have played more off the ball this year with Ahmad.

You mean Tracy would have been playing  at the two (shooting guard)?


Yeah, he would have been playing a lot more two, which he’ll do next year as well because we’ll lose Ray and we’ll lose Starks.

So if we get one of these really good point guards, we’re bringing him in to start. I mean, they’re going to have to earn their keep, but (the selling point is) they’re going to be playing with a guy, alongside a guy who’s got a ton of experience in the Big Ten and in big time basketball.

Illini basketball

The Women’s Clinic

Bardo’s pass to Anderson. Williams to tie it with a three! Julie Pioletti’s Chalk Talk.

These are the top three highlights of my 33 year career of attentive Illini basketball observation.







This was better.



Yes, Tuesday night’s Coaches versus Cancer event even surpassed Matt Heldman’s half-court alley-oop to Awvee Storey. It was more exciting than Derek Harper’s three-pointer (Big Ten rules) to beat Randy Breuer and the Golden Gophers.

I sat in C Section for the ’98 win over Mateen Cleaves, and Frank’s 2000  heroics versus Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn. I watched from the baseline as Tyler Griffey beat #1 Indiana.

This was better.

Why? Because it provided a rare view inside Illini basketball.

John Groce keeps a tight lid on the inner workings of his program. Thus, we never get to see the coaches coaching, or the players playing (except when they’re playing basketball). Tuesday night’s event allowed a glimpse of the players at ease, having a good time. We got to see Jamall Walker teaching, which is a wonderful thing to behold. We saw Paris Parham’s comedy routine, and realized only afterward that we’d learned some important things about technique even as we roared with laughter.

We learned, essentially, that this staff is really good at teaching basketball.

This insight arrived sandwiched between Official Visits from from five-star recruits. Jalen Brunson came last weekend. Jawun Evans arrives on Friday. Illinois basketball is recruiting at an unprecedented level. “Illinois” appears on  “final five” and “top ten” lists of nationally conspicuous high school phenoms. “Duke” and “North Carolina” sometimes make the tens. They are conspicuously absent from the fives.

The times they are a-changin’.  There’s a tectonic shift undermining the college basketball landscape. On Tuesday night, about a hundred mostly middle-aged women got a front row view of The New Firm in action.

The Chalk Talk began with wine & beer, plus appetizers donated by Orange & Brew. Once fed & mildly sedated, the hundred or so participants watched Groce present an overview of the program.  Groce then divided the women into seven groups. Each group headed off to a work station, for closer study and immersion.

  1. Mike Basgier’s strength & conditioning lesson, in the weight room
  2. Paul Schmidt’s sports medicine talk, in the training room
  3. Paris Parham’s rebounding clinic, in the women’s gym
  4. Chelsea Burkart’s guide to nutrition management, in the team lounge
  5. Ryan Pedon’s gameday scouting report, in the video room
  6. Jamall Walker’s pack line defense lesson, in the men’s gym
  7. Dustin Ford’s Introduction to The Gun, also in the men’s gym

The women, about fifteen per group, spent roughly ten to fifteen minutes at each station. They got a short workout with Basgier. They got an ankle taped with Schmidt. They played woman-to-man defense with Walker.  At the remaining four workstations, they merely observed.

Participants were mostly members of the Rebounders’ Club. University President’s wife Cheryl Easter, a longtime season-ticket holder and student of the game, was one.  Three Illini moms took part: Rhonda Rice, Kathi LaTulip and Laura Finke. Jeni Thomas participated, while her husband Mike Thomas watched. Gymnastics coach Justin Spring’s wife Tori took part. There were young, fit women in yoga pants. There were women of a certain age, fit, in yoga pants.  Seniors of varied  fitness-levels took part, to the extent they were able.


After each group had finished all seven workstations, they reunited for a Q & A with coach Groce, the entire team, and the coaches’ wives. (Ahmad Starks and Jaylon Tate arrived at this point. Academic duties prevented them from participating in the workstations.)

One woman asked Groce about shoes. She’d noticed that while gameday uniforms always match, the shoes don’t. Groce explained that he wants the team to feel, literally, “comfortable in their shoes.”  Thus, each player is allowed to choose the pair best-suited to his needs. “Obviously they have to be Nike,” he added, “and they can be one of four colors: orange, blue, white or gray.”

Another haberdashery question:  “Who chooses the gameday uniforms?” Groce’s answer: “Rod Cardinal.”  The players learn what they’re wearing when they open their lockers, and find a clean/pressed uniform hanging inside.

If the stereotype is true, that women are more generally interested in all things sartorial, then that’s an unintended benefit of hosting a clinic for women. Otherwise, we’d never have known the answers to these questions.

Another woman asked about the average day in the life of a student-athlete. Nnanna Egwu provided an exhaustive & exhausting answer. It was tiring just to listen to him tally his daily responsibilities. “Class at ten. Class at eleven. Class at noon. Class at one. Try to get something to eat. Then get to the weight room.”  That was just the beginning. There’s also practice, training table (dinner), study hall. He made a vague reference to a bed, opining that he’d like to get better acquainted with that bed.

Mike Basgier answered a question about the staff’s expectations re: body mass. What targets do they have for newcomers? How much should a freshman weigh when he arrives on campus?  Threshold numbers for weightlifting, etc.

Basgier said the first assessment comes during the sophomore summer, i.e. only when a student-athlete has been in the program for a full year. It takes that much time to assess an individual, see how he responds to conditioning & weights, and whether he’s stopped growing.


Another fitness assessment-oriented question concerned “running the mile.” The players run a timed mile. John Groce asked each player to name his time. Egwu answered first: “Five-twenty.”

The audience was impressed.

The rest of the players gave answers in the 5:20s to 5:30s range. When Ahmad Starks and Tracy Abrams declared “5:17,” a startled intake of breath peppered the audience. When Mike LaTulip said “4:57,” the entire group gasped audibly.


After the Q&A, the women got autographs and photos with the players and coaches. It was after nine, and many participants looked ready for bed. The student-athletes were probably tired too. But they had another four hours of work to do before seeing that bed.


There wasn’t a lot of publicity for the Chalk Talk. As Derrick Burson remarked “it’s a charity event. There’s just no budget for it.” But word of mouth will, unless I’m very much mistaken, unleash a viral interest in future events of this kind. John Groce used the word “inaugural” to describe the Chalk Talk. Next time around, you’ll want to reserve your spot early.  Square-footage is finite. I expect they’ll be turning people away.

Illini basketball

The Jalen Brunson Weekend

In the long run, the biggest news from Labor Day Weekend 2014 will have little to do with Jalen Brunson: Allison Groce is expecting her third child. The due date is March 18, “right between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA’s” she notes.

And if Abraham* Groce does not choose to vacate the womb early, March 18 will be his birthday: With John Groce on the road for half the year, even live birth must be scheduled months in advance. Thus, as with the succesful debuts of Conner and Camden, Groce child #3’s delivery will be induced.


A note to the H8erz Gonna H8 crowd: Yes, I asked Allison if her happy news was fit for publication.  She laughed it off. “I already posted it on Facebook.”

Now, about Jalen Brunson.

If it weren’t for those famously silly NCAA rules about publicizing recruiting activities; the Illini coaching staff would be delighted to share its vision of Jalen Brunson’s future. But they can’t.  The Brunsons themselves were off-limits to the media during Jalen’s Official Visit, per those same silly rules.

Thank god for pictures. They say a thousand words. So here are twenty-thousand words.

Mark Morris, as Director of Basketball Operations, had the responsibility of coordinating movements around town, and picking up all the tabs. (Official Visits are the one and only time a basketball program can pay for benefits to families, including travel expenses, lodging and meals.)

Mike LaTulip and Aaron Jordan ran point on Brunson, from the player’s perspective. Paris Parham took the lead on Rick Brunson.

Old friend Rob Jordan and new friends Laura & Jeff Finke made Sandra Brunson feel like family.

LaTulip is perfect in this role. He can articulate the offensive and defensive principles of John Groce’s system, perhaps better than anyone else in the program, and from a Point Guard’s perspective.  Mike is a team favorite, considered  by his teammates to be the funniest guy among them.

Mike Basgier did not attend the football game, and Ryan Pedon was Best Manning a wedding. But the rest of the coaching staff was on hand, plus the Groce and Parham families.

Parham is streetwise. Despite a devilish sense of humor, he’s capable of communicating the lay of the land to an old-pro like Rick Brunson, whose BS-detector is well-honed from his own college and professional basketball career.

John Groce is ultimately the most important figure in this recruitment. But Rob Jordan is the wild card.

Aaron’s dad is sincere and lighthearted. But he’s nobody’s fool. His relationship with the Brunsons goes back years. His understanding of the process, and his faith in the direction of the program, may be the most important intangibles in determining the final verdict.


*This is just my hunch at a name.  “Caleb” seems possible as well. Or “Catherine.”



Illini basketball

John Groce & Julie Pioletti to host basketball clinic for women

Men’s Basketball office manager Julie Pioletti & Allison Groce got together last week to finalize some details for September 2nd’s “Chalk Talk,” a four hour basketball clinic for women.

The event will take place at the Ubben & Corzine practice facility, at the corner of Fourth Street and St. Mary’s Road in Champaign, beginning at 5 p.m.

John Groce and his coaching staff will be on hand, as well as all their wives: Keisha Parham, Marcie Ford, Rebekah Walker and Allison. The first item on the agenda includes cocktails, to get everybody in the mood.

Illini players will join the coaches for a series of skill station demonstrations, and stick around for a Q & A session at 8 p.m.

Participants will get a full tour of the practice facility, including the Illini locker room. And they’ll have a chance to play with “The Gun,” the mechanical device that rebounds & computes shots taken at the basket.

The cost is $45.00 per person, payable by check or cash only. Participants can register in advance by mail, or on site. A portion of the proceeds will go to the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Coaches Vs. Cancer fund.

Women interested in registering, or learning more details, should contact Julie at the Ubben:

Julie Pioletti
1750 S Fourth St
Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 333-3400


Illini basketball

Illini Men’s B1G schedule 2015

[gview file=”” save=”1″]

Illini Basketball

B1G shots statement on O’Bannon case



ROSEMONT, Ill. – While testifying last week in the O’Bannon trial in Oakland, Calif., Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany spoke to the importance of the inextricable link between academics and athletics as part of the collegiate model, and to the value of establishing a 21st century system to meet the educational needs of current and future student-athletes. During his testimony, Delany conveyed sentiments long supported by the conference and its member institutions. Today, the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten schools issue the following statement signed by the leaders of each institution:


As another NCAA season concludes with baseball and softball championships, college athletics is under fire. While football players at Northwestern fight for collective bargaining, former athletes are suing to be compensated for the use of their images.


Football and men’s basketball are at issue. Compensating the student-athletes who compete in these sports will skew the overall academic endeavor – for all students, not just those wearing a school’s colors.


The best solutions rest not with the courts, but with us – presidents of the very universities that promote and respect the values of intercollegiate competition. Writing on behalf of all presidents of the Big Ten Conference, we must address the conflicts that have led us to a moment where the conversation about college sports is about compensation rather than academics.

The tradition and spirit of intercollegiate athletics is unique to our nation. Students play as part of their overall academic experience, not for a paycheck or end-of-season bonus. Many also compete in hopes of a professional career, just as our biology majors serve internships and musical theater students perform in summer stock. These opportunities – sports, marching band, campus newspaper, and more – are facets of the larger college experience and prepare students for life. And that, in its purest form, is the mission of higher education.


The reality of intercollegiate athletics is that only a miniscule number of students go on to professional sports careers. In the sports that generate the greatest revenue and attention, football sees 13 percent of Big Ten players drafted by the NFL and basketball sees 6 percent from our conference drafted for NBA play.


For those student-athletes who are drafted, their professional careers average fewer than five years. They still have several decades and, potentially, several careers ahead of them in which to succeed. And their college experience – their overall academic experience – should be what carries them forward.


This is why we propose working within the NCAA to provide greater academic security and success for our student-athletes:


•             We must guarantee the four-year scholarships that we offer. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be zero impact on our commitment as universities to deliver an undergraduate education. We want our students to graduate.


•             If a student-athlete leaves for a pro career before graduating, the guarantee of a scholarship remains firm. Whether a professional career materializes, and regardless of its length, we will honor a student’s scholarship when his or her playing days are over. Again, we want students to graduate.


•             We must review our rules and provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes. We have an obligation to protect their health and well-being in return for the physical demands placed upon them.


•             We must do whatever it takes to ensure that student-athlete scholarships cover the full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government. That definition is intended to cover what it actually costs to attend college.


Across the Big Ten, and in every major athletic conference, football and men’s basketball are the principal revenue sports. That money supports the men and women competing in all other sports. No one is demanding paychecks for our gymnasts or wrestlers. And yet it is those athletes – in swimming, track, lacrosse, and other so-called Olympic sports – who will suffer the most under a pay-to-play system.


The revenue creates more opportunities for more students to attend college and all that provides, and to improve the athletic experiences through improved facilities, coaching, training and support.


If universities are mandated to instead use those dollars to pay football and basketball players, it will be at the expense of all other teams. We would be forced to eliminate or reduce those programs. Paying only some athletes will create inequities that are intolerable and potentially illegal in the face of Title IX.


The amateur model is not broken, but it does require adjusting for the 21st century. Whether we pay student-athletes is not the true issue here. Rather, it is how we as universities provide a safe, rewarding and equitable environment for our student-athletes as they pursue their education.


We believe that the intercollegiate athletics experience and the educational mission are inextricably linked. Professionalizing specific sports or specific participants will bring about intended as well as likely unintended consequences in undermining the educational foundation of these programs, on Big Ten campuses and others throughout the country


Higher education provides young people with options in life to thrive in the future. For a tiny minority, that future will be a professional sports career and all of its rewards. For all graduates – athletes and non-athletes – it is the overall academic experience that is a lifetime source of compensation in the form of a well-rounded education.




Illini basketball

Darius Paul – the police report

An hour and fifteen minutes after Illini basketball spokesman Derrick Burson alerted the media (via email) that Darius Paul had been suspended for the entire 2014-15 season; University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy emailed me a PDF of the police report documenting Paul’s arrest (embedded below).

This report had been withheld from the May 9 response to my FOIA inquiry on the grounds that the Paul investigation was still considered open and ongoing. This morning, Paul pleaded guilty to underage consumption. His charge of resisting a peace officer was dropped. The hearing was scheduled for Friday, but Cliff Paul Sr. says the family took advantage of an open court date to avoid the “circus.”

The two most thrilling words in the Paul report are, or seem to be, red herrings. They are “cocaine” and “DMT.”  DMT is “a powerful hallucinogenic drug.” 

Paul is not charged with any drug offenses.

One officer’s official report supposes that Paul was out looking to get some DMT. Another officer’s report contradicts that supposition, saying Paul was trying to get away from a guy who was attempting to sell DMT to him.  This was the mysterious second suspect, the one who eluded police.

A third officer (not involved in the pursuit or arrest) filed a report about a plastic bag. He describes finding the bag on the spot where Paul was tackled. He describes field-testing the bag for cocaine.

The report reveals that Paul was tackled just outside his apartment building. Had he made it inside, he might have retained his athletic scholarship for the 2014-15 season. Considering the dollar value of that year’s tuition, room and board, and the potential dollar value of a successful high-major college basketball career, one begins to understand Paul’s reasons for avoiding police contact.

Paul was also slightly injured in the altercation.  Police photographed his wrists to document the extent of damage caused by handcuffing.

Despite the charge of underage consumption, Paul’s age is listed as 23. His name is given as Paul G. Darius, which is scratched out and replaced by a handwritten correction. His height is listed as “609” while his description radioed to METCAD (thus initiating the chase) was  “approximately 6’4”

The chase and arrest was initiated by officer Michelle Ortiz, whose report describes her interest beginning when she observed “a white male who appeared to be intoxicated.” University FOIA officers redacted Paul’s race, but did not obscure the description of the “white male.”

Officer Ortiz specifies the location of her attention as being “the alley south of the Illini Arcade.”  Illini Arcade is an adult novelty and media retail store.  A search for [“Illini Arcade”  + “personals”] on the front page of chambana.craigslist,org directs the user to the “casual encounters” page.

Was Ortiz specifically monitoring foot traffic around the Illini Arcade?

It’s possible that the university’s Division of Public Safety pays special attention to a meeting place for homosexual men. But unlike the old days of vice squad persecution, this attention would ostensibly be for the benefit of  Arcade clients, rather than harassment of them.

U of I police chief Jeff Christensen said there’s no particular focus on the Illini Arcade as a locus of criminal activity.

Our officers regularly patrol the entire campus district which includes the area surrounding 25 E. Springfield Avenue.  Although officers have extended jurisdiction and patrol duties beyond this area, we define the campus district as extending from University Avenue on the north to Windsor Road on the south, Race Street on the east and the railroad tracks just east of Neil Street on the west.  Officer Ortiz and Officer Age were in this area as part of their general patrol responsibilities when the behavioral observations were viewed as documented in the report.   Historically, there have been higher rates of robberies and batteries within the northwest quadrant of the campus district.

This video (originally published in Saturday’s report on Kenichi Townsend’s arrest) shows the proximity of Paul’s apartment to the South China parking lot where Ortiz was staked out.

The lot is on the west aide of the detention basin. The apartment building is on the east side. The Illini Arcade is on the north side.

That John Groce changed direction, suspending Paul before the legal process had run its course, might be the most interesting aspect of this case from the big picture perspective of Illini basketball.

Groce’s first statement, issued the same date as Paul’s arrest, says ““We need to let the legal process run its course, and then will determine appropriate disciplinary action.”

Instead, Groce revoked Paul’s scholarship and banned him from all team-related activities just three days before Paul’s hearing was scheduled, and a day before it actually took place.

Here’s the press release on Paul’s suspension.

Fighting Illini Basketball

Paul Suspended for 2014-15 Season


Champaign, Ill.­–University of Illinois head basketball coach John Groce announced today that sophomore forward Darius Paul (Gurnee, Ill.) has been suspended for the upcoming season.


“After a thorough review of Darius’ year, which includes multiple transgressions, I am suspending Darius from all team-related activities for the entire 2014-15 season,” Groce said. “As head coach, my concerns are always what is best for the University of Illinois, what is best for the men’s basketball program, and what is best for our student-athletes as people. I feel this penalty is necessary to help Darius as a person. We will continue to support him through this process.”

“Support” does not include an athletic scholarship.

[gview file=”” height=”600px” width=”800px” save=”0″]



Illini basketball

Darius Paul’s arresting officers

As required by law, the University of Illinois responded to my FOIA inquiry of April 24 which requested documents & information about Darius Paul, Arsenio Carter and Kenichi Townsend.  A PDF of that report is attached at the bottom of this post.

You’ll recall from my initial Illini Report offering that Townsend was jailed just hours before Paul’s arrest, and that Carter (Townsend’s alleged accomplice in an August 2013 robbery) is about seven feet tall, and weighs about 245 lbs. Thus, my theory that on the night Paul was arrested for resisting arrest, the officers who spotted him thought he was Carter.

To give readers a better understanding of the locus in quo, I biked to the site of Darius Paul’s arrest, which is about a 5-iron from Darius Paul’s apartment.

For readers who misinterpreted anything about the South China restaurant, its parking lot, its adjacent viaduct, or the railroad tracks that run atop it; I hope this video clears things up.

University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy supplied a 37 page PDF file (embedded below) chronicling the investigation of Carter, and the investigation, arrest and interrogation of  Townsend. Carter’s arrest is not documented, explained Hardy, because Carter was not arrested by University of Illinois police.

Hardy identified Darius Paul’s arresting officers as Justin Age, James Scheel and Kaleb Schroeder. Officers submitting reports in the Carter/Townsend investigation and arrest were Eric Vogt and Ezzard Charles Hoskins, and Detective Cecil  “Gene” Moore.

If none of these names sounds like an Hispanic female to you, you’re right.

According to Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz “Michelle Ortiz saw him first, the other guys stopped him.” Thus, you can infer that not everyone involved in either arrest is named in these reports.

Hoskins is identified as the officer who recognized Arsenio Carter from the surveillance video which UIPD eventually posted on YouTube.  In a report submitted by Moore, Hoskins describes Carter as “willing to talk to police, but will fight if arrest is attempted.”

Remarkably, while returning from the South China parking lot this afternoon, I stumbled upon Officer Hoskins making an arrest. It occurred at the corner of Fourth & Green, in Campustown.  Hoskins and his partner were so patient and calm with the man they arrested, I actually didn’t realize I was witnessing an arrest.

From outward appearances, the police were helping the man, who was accompanied by four tweenaged children. Not until the arrestee yelled “don’t take pictures of my kids!”  did I realize an arrest was taking place. The arrestee also yelled “don’t tell him nuthin’!” Hoskins invited me to leave, so I did. I’d wanted to ask him about his pursuit of Arsenio Carter, but suddenly realized it was a bad time.

Were Darius Paul’s arresting officers aware that Arsenio Carter was willing to talk to police, but disliked being arrested?

U of I police chief Jeff Christensen’s “Crime Alert” to the public is the FOIA response’s only memo indicating a department-wide awareness of Carter.  But while officer Hoskins recognized Carter from experience prior to August 2013, the Christensen memo demonstrates a departmental directive for all officers to be on the lookout for a seven foot black man, known to roam the streets near Springfield Avenue around 3 a.m.

Kenichi Townsend didn’t squeal during his 2013 interrogation. When asked to identify  his companion in the surveillance video, he obfuscated before invoking his right to counsel. And although Townsend was in custody when police wrestled Darius Paul to the ground, Townsend is no longer listed on the Champaign County sheriff’s inmate search website.

If local law enforcement hopes to turn Townsend and Carter against one another, it currently lacks any leverage to do so. The 2013 robbery may go unpunished, despite officer Hoskins’ excellent police work.

There’s no legal relevance of the Carter and Townsend cases to the People v. Darius Paul.  Perhaps the police thought they were tackling Arsenio Carter, but that supposition doesn’t diminish Paul’s 4th Amendment rights. The question is whether walking in a parking lot within view of one’s own apartment is reasonably suspicious to give rise to a Terry stop. Details of Paul’s arrest and interrogation will not be available until the investigation is closed.

Now, here’s the PDF covering documents and reports relevant to Townsend and Carter. For some reason, the race of the  2013 victim was redacted from the report.

[gview file=”” save=”1″]

Illini basketball

FOIA update, Darius Paul

In a not unexpected move, the University of Illinois FOIA office delayed its response to my Darius Paul arrest query, giving itself a (statutorily provided) extra five days to produce records. Here’s my original query: For their purposes, this query was actually two queries. Thus, the U of I FOIA people responded twice. Here’s the initial response.         Here’s the second response. The FOIA office will necessarily provide something by this coming Friday, May 9.  People v. Darius Paul resumes on May 16, at 9:30 A.M. in Courtroom E of the Champaign County Courthouse.