NEWS

With the Illini: Big name Beal spurns Illini for Florida

John Supinie

Junior shooting guard Bradley Beal, who led Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis to the Class 5 state title last season, had his own Final Four.

But when he announced Monday that he would play basketball at Florida, Beal said Kansas was the runner-up. Illinois and Missouri were also finalists for the player ranked No. 7 nationally in his class by Rivals.

"Next would most definitely be Kansas,'' Beal told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That's a great school. I love Coach (Bill) Self. But I just really liked Florida just a little bit more than I liked KU.''

Beal averaged 23.5 points per game last season, and he was on everyone's wish list. With his decision made, the Illini must now work on other options at guard and wing in the class of 2011. Illinois has a long relationship with Rock Island junior guard Chasson Randle, but a name that's been mentioned lately is Devin Langford from Lee High School in Huntsville, Ala.

Chicago Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear, Brehm Prep's Dre Henley and Chicago Whitney Young's Sam Thompson are other wings on Illinois' radar.  Illinois already has commitments in the junior class from Chicago Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams and Chicago St. Ignatius center Nnana Egwu.

After blowing leads in losing to Bradley and Utah in the Las Vegas Invitational, Illinois fell out of the top 25 from No. 20 the previous week. The Illini (4-2) play at No. 18 Clemson (6-1) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge Wednesday (6:15 p.m., ESPN).

FOOTBALL: Johnsburg tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz decommitted to Illinois last week in favor of Iowa because Illinois didn't throw to the tight end this year, more than the Illini's losing record, said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. Nevertheless, Illinois recruiting is more about retaining four-star Proviso East defensive back Corey Cooper than reeling in more four- or five-star players.

"I don't hear about them as much as the last couple of years,'' Lemming said. "A couple years ago, they came on strong at the end. You don't hear their name with a lot of great players. They either have to take players away or go down South and look for players.''

Cooper gave a verbal commitment to Illinois but later visited Notre Dame, which fired coach Charlie Weis on Monday. Star receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West gave a verbal to USC, but his coach, Famous Hulbert, is a former Illinois lineman who pushes the Illini. There aren't many blue-chippers left, Lemming said.

"I don't know too many other ones (in Chicago),'' Lemming said. "There aren’t too many left in St. Louis. The ones left in Ohio aren't considering Illinois. So Illinois has to be working down South.''

Fiedorowicz told Lemming he changed his mind after attending the Illinois-Michigan State game, when the Illini didn't complete a pass to the tight end. Illini senior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui's season was sabotaged by an ankle injury, while Iowa senior tight end Tony Moeaki earned all-Big Ten.

"He went down for that (Illinois-Michigan State) game,'' Lemming said. "Illinois didn't throw to the tight end once. He thought about leaving right then. With him, it wasn't because of the bad season.''

Illinois (3-8) hosts Fresno State (7-4) in the season's final game Saturday (11:30 a.m., Big Ten Network).

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Illinois senior center Jenna Smith earned Big Ten player of the week Monday after averaging 20.3 points, 13 rebounds and 2.7 blocks to lead the Illini to three victories. Smith had 28 points and 17 rebounds as Illinois rallied from 15 points down in the second half to defeat Alabama 64-55 in the championship game of the San Luis Obispo Holiday Beach Classic Sunday.

Smith earned tournament MVP, and senior forward Lacey Simpson joined her on the all-tournament team. Riding a six-game winning streak, Illinois (8-1) plays at Wake Forest Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

VOLLEYBALL: Illinois (24-5) hosts Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday (7 p.m.), immediately following a match between Dayton (29-3) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (16-14). The two winners meet Friday (7 p.m.). A loss at Minnesota in the final regular season match Saturday may have dropped Illinois one spot in seeding, but the Illini earned the No. 5 seed overall.

Defending champ Penn State enters as the top seed, followed by Texas, Florida State and Stanford. In the bracket, Illinois and Stanford are the top seeds in their 16-team bracket that feeds to the Final Four.

John Supinie can be reached atJohnsupinie@aol.com.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Monday

Penn State at Virginia, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Tuesday

Wake Forest at Purdue, 6 p.m., ESPN

Maryland at Indiana, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

Northwestern at North Carolina State, 6 p.m., ESPNU

Michigan State at North Carolina, 8 p.m., ESPN

Virginia Tech at Iowa, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2

Wednesday

Illinois at Clemson, 6:15 p.m., ESPN

Boston College at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2

Minnesota at Miami (Fla.), 6:15 or 6:30 p.m., ESPNU

Duke at Wisconsin, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Florida State at Ohio State, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2

The series

1999: ACC wins 5-4

2000: ACC wins 5-4

2001: ACC wins 5-3

2002: ACC wins 5-4

2003: ACC wins 7-2

2004: ACC wins 7-2

2005: ACC wins 6-5

2006: ACC wins 8-3

2007: ACC wins 8-3

2008: ACC wins 6-5