NEWS

Illini guard Jamar Smith to redshirt this season

John Supinie

The Illinois basketball roster took a hit at shooting guard Wednesday.

Illinois junior guard Jamar Smith will redshirt this season and be allowed to return for the 2008-09 season with two years of eligibility remaining, the university announced Wednesday afternoon.

With Smith lost for the season, it made the academic status of freshman guard Quinton Watkins even more serious for an Illini roster thin on perimeter scorers. Watkins returned home to California after failing to pass academic standards set by the NCAA initial eligibility clearinghouse for incoming freshmen.

While Watkins hoped to clear up course work in California and return to Illinois soon, classes began at Illinois Wednesday, and each day missed makes his return for the fall semester more unlikely.

"Jamar Smith has had a productive summer,'' coach Bruce Weber said in a written statement. "He's in the process of meeting his legal obligations while continuing to work on his personal issues. We feel at this time it's in Jamar's best interest that he sit out the 2007-08 season and take a redshirt year. We'll continue to monitor his progress. If all obligations are met then he'll return to competition for the 2008-09 season.

"In addition, we continue to wait on documentation regarding Quinton Watkins' eligibility for the upcoming season. At this time, he is in California fulfilling requirements for fall enrollment. We hope this situation is resolved soon.''

Weber, Smith and Watkins were unavailable for comment. Smith will remain on scholarship during the redshirt season.

Meanwhile, freshman forward Mike Davis, who committed to Illinois last week, was on campus. His academic status was unknown, but that should be no surprise since his paperwork got a late start with the NCAA.

A Peoria Richwoods graduate, Smith hasn't played for the Illini since he was charged with aggravated driving under the influence after a one-car accident south of campus on Feb. 12. Smith completed a 15-day sentence in the Champaign County jail after the felony conviction in May.

The accident left forward Brian Carlwell, a sophomore this fall, in intensive care with a severe concussion. Smith missed the final eight games while attending to his legal issues, and Carlwell didn't play in the final eight games while recovering from the head injury.

Watkins' situation is more of a mystery. He committed to Illinois in January as a rare recruit from the West Coast and attended the summer semester at Illinois, but he hasn't returned to campus after going home following the summer classes.

Apparently, his academic issues caught Illinois by surprise, since he spent the summer on campus rather than clearing up any problems earlier.

If Watkins can't return this season, the immediate concern sits at perimeter scoring, just like last season when the Illini slowed the tempo and relied upon defense. Illinois ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring last season at 64.1 points a game. The average dropped to 57.5 points in conference play.

Warren Carter and Rich McBride combined to average 23.3 points a game and boost Illinois' perimeter threat before graduating. Center Shaun Pruitt returned as the team's only scorer to average in double figures.

Senior Brian Randle and junior-college transfer Rodney Alexander are known more as slashers than perimeter scorers. Returning guards Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock combined to make 14 3-pointers in Big Ten play.

Freshman guards Demetri McCamey and Jeff Jordan planned to play more point guard than contribute as shooters.

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.