I know it’s been a while since I’ve been able to chat, but that’s with good reason. First we’ve been in the process of shifting gears from the Illini and NCAA basketball into NHL Playoffs. So now TW at the BB is officially all Red Wings, all the time.
And then this happened.
My guess is that Richmond had eligibility issues and to prevent any further penalties being assessed to either party, Weber benched Richmond for the NCAA tourney games against UNLV and Kansas. The cause of these issues in turn never got resolved, and both sides agreed it would be best to part ways, and that Richmond going to the NBA was the best way to do this without harming anyone’s reputation.
So what does this mean for the 2011-2012 Illini?
Questions surrounding what lead to Richmond’s benching in the tournament and his status with the program had potential to be a major distraction for the team next year. Nipping this issue in the bud could help prevent a long complicated season of off-court issues.
With that said, losing of player of Richmond’s potential will sting especially with 4 starting seniors also departing. On the floor Richmond was a fantastic rebounder with a Rodman-esque presence around the rim. (Without any kind of formal statistics in front of me, I’m going to estimate that 85% of his baskets came from put-backs on offensive rebounds.) Richmond also had a cockiness and swagger that this team has been lacking since Dee Brown was rocking Assembly Hall. He will be tough to replace.
I think the biggest loser in all of this is going to be Weber. I’ve long been a supporter of Weber and always liked him as a coach. We all know about his struggles with recruiting, especially the in-state players. Richmond was the first big catch Weber pulled in and it began a trend of the top in-state players finding their way back to Champaign. Despite the disappointment of this past year, winning a tournament game was big enough to consider this season not a failure (I still won’t go so far as to call it a success), but this situation loomed like a black cloud over the program. I think this is going to sting and impact Weber’s reputation among the fans for retaining top talent. This will add another log on the fire under his seat for next year, and unless the Illini are able to meet our expectation of the program, next year will be his last.