Illinois notebook: Recruiters lining up for high-scoring Beal

John Supinie

The Illinois basketball team has a long line of future guards already formed.

High school seniors D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand signed with Illinois in November. Junior Crandall Head is also committed, and the Illini made early headway on the class of 2011 when Chicago Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams committed earlier this season.

Yet sophomore guard Bradley Beal from Chaminade College Prep in suburban St. Louis became Illinois' latest recruiting target because he's different from the others.

He's a pure scorer.

"People think I'm a one-dimensional player, that all I can do is shoot,'' Beal said last week after scoring 23 points in a 48-28 first-round district victory over DeSmet. "When the game starts, I can do other things.''

The athletic, 6-foot-3 Beal can rebound, pass and play defense, but has ability to score has college recruiters lining up. Against DeSmet -- when he was 6-for-12 from the field in what he considered an off night -- Beal displayed an all-around offensive game.

He exploded to the basket, drove with both hands, hit floaters and showed off his touch at the free-throw line by making his last 10 attempts. Beal's ability as a shooter and slasher sets him apart from other recruits.

"I didn't shoot the way I wanted,'' Beal said. "So I got to the basket and the free-throw line.''

With Illinois coach Bruce Weber in the stands during Chaminade's 64-46 victory over CBC in a district final Friday, Beal filled the stat sheet: 32 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 from the 3-point line, 10-for-13 on free throws with six rebounds, six assists and two blocks. This season, he's averaging 23.5 points and 52 percent shooting from the floor.

Kansas made the first scholarship offer last summer, Beal said. Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Purdue and Saint Louis have also offered, but recruiting insiders feel the race could be between Illinois and Kansas.

Missouri apparently has improved its chances with Beal thanks to a successful season, but coach Mike Anderson has already been rumored for vacancies at Georgia and Alabama.

Beal doesn't appear in any hurry to make a college decision. He has made at least two trips to Champaign, and Beal attended the Kansas-Missouri game in Lawrence on Sunday. The deep roster of guards at Illinois didn't seem to bother him.

"I don't want to go and be the only guy anywhere with no help,'' he said. "I want to go to a good team and try to win the national championship.''

Football

Illinois will play at Cincinnati on Nov. 28 now that both schools have signed the contract. With the addition of the game, Illinois plays two non-conference dates to end the season. The Illini also host Fresno State on Nov. 21. Cincinnati returns the game to Illinois in 2013.

The latest signed contract gives Illinois an ambitious non-conference schedule in a meaningful season. After slipping to a 5-7 record after the Rose Bowl season in 2007 -- the only winning record in coach Ron Zook's first four years -- the Illini play two of three key non-conference dates away from home. Illinois opens the season against Missouri in St. Louis on Sept. 5.

Women’s basketball

Junior center Jenna Smith became the fourth Illinois player to earn first-team all-Big Ten in back-to-back seasons Monday. After averaging 18.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and two blocks per game, Smith was voted to the first team in separate voting by the Big Ten coaches and media.

Junior forward Lacey Simpson was a third-team pick by the media and honorable mention by the coaches. She averaged 11.2 points, nine rebounds and a league-leading 3.1 steals per game.

"Jenna has been a rock for our team this year,'' coach Jolette Law said. "She never takes a rest and she puts up big numbers every game despite being constantly double- and triple-teamed. I wouldn't trade Jenna for any other post in the country. Lacey is the most complete player in the conference.''

Jonelle Polk of Peoria (1986, 1987), Ashley Berggren (1996, 1997, 1998) and Allison Curtin of Taylorville (2000, 2001) were first-team all-Big Ten in consecutive seasons.

For the second consecutive season, Illinois enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 9 seed. Last season, Illinois reached the title game. Illinois (9-20, 5-13) meets No. 8 Penn State on Thursday

Baseball

Who is off to a better start: the Illinois baseball team or freshman second baseman Josh Parr, a former star at Chillicothe IVC?

Parr earned co-Big Ten player of the week Monday after hitting .700 to lead the Illini to three wins and the Ogletree Classic title in Edinburg, Texas, over the weekend. He went 4-for-4 with two RBI in a 4-2 victory over Texas-Pan American on Friday, then scored a run and added two more RBI while going 2-for-3 in a 4-2 win over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. On Sunday, he was 2-for-3 with an RBI triple in a 3-2 win over Texas-Arlington.

During the three games, Parr was 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position and 4-for-4 with runners on base. Parr leads the Illini in hitting (.476), slugging (.619), on-base percentage (.542), hits (10) and total bases (13).

Illinois (5-1) is off to its best start since 2003. The Illini play at No. 1 LSU in a three-game series this weekend.

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