NEWS

Illinois notebook: Young prospect visits Illini basketball complex

John Supinie

It's kind of hard for Larry Austin, the highly touted basketball player entering his freshman year at Springfield Lanphier High School, to do anything without the word getting out.

That included his unofficial visit to the Illinois campus and the Illini basketball complex Wednesday.

"I didn't tell anybody,'' said Austin's father, Larry Sr. "We wanted to keep it low-key.''

The younger Austin already had college coaches watching him as an eighth-grader last season -- Illinois coach Bruce Weber and Purdue assistant Paul Lusk saw him play at Springfield Grant -- and he toured the campus with the Illinois coaching staff.

"We got to see the campus, and it was very informal,'' Austin’s father said. "It was a marvelous experience.''

The younger Austin was a regular at Illinois home games last season and met the Illini's incoming freshmen (Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head) on his unofficial visit. He hoped to return to Illinois again next week, a plan that could put any other unofficial campus visits on hold.

The family also made the trip to Champaign on Wednesday, and everyone liked to hear about the university’s high graduation rate.

"That really impressed us,'' Larry Austin Sr. said. "He's a student first and athlete second.''

Larry Austin led Grant to the IESA Class 4A title last season, when Grant was rarely challenged. He was also a member of the high honor roll, his father said. When Grant won the title, Illini assistant Jerrance Howard watched the game in the stands.

"Larry really likes Illinois,'' Larry Austin Sr. said. "I don't want him to do anything because of Mom and Dad. I want him to make his own decision.''

Larry Austin will get plenty of attention from college coaches during the July AAU season -- "We expect to see quite a few of them,'' his father said -- but Austin will play in the USSSA national tournament this season instead of the AAU nationals.

He looked forward to a return trip to Champaign next week, because incoming Chicago Whitney Young 6-8 freshman Jahlil Okafor may also be there, Larry Austin Sr. said.

The younger Austin and Okafor call or text each other regularly, and they talk about playing at the same college.

Weber has a reputation for waiting to offer a scholarship to player until he is in high school, and the first days of high school are just around the corner for Austin and Okafor.

Coaches vs. Cancer

Pittsburgh, Texas, Maryland,and Illinois will host regional round games of the 2010 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Each school will host two regional round games before heading to New York's Madison Square Garden for the championship rounds Nov. 18-19.

REGIONAL ROUNDS

At Pittsburgh

Nov. 8: Rhode Island at Pittsburgh

Nov. 10: Illinois-Chicago at Pittsburgh

At Texas

Nov. 8: Navy at Texas

Nov. 10: Louisiana Tech at Texas

At Maryland

Nov. 8: Seattle at Maryland

Nov. 10: Charleston at Maryland

At Illinois

Nov. 8: UC Irvine at Illinois

Nov. 10: Toledo at Illinois

The matchups for the championship rounds at Madison Square Garden and the subregional rounds at Toledo and UC Irvine will be announced at a later date, as will game times and television details.

Big Ten honors

Illinois senior offensive guard Jon Asamoah (football) and senior distance specialist Angela Bizzarri (track/cross country) were named the school's Big Ten medal of honor recipients. A male and female winner are chosen for each school.