Illinois Men’s Basketball missed the NCAA Tournament again this season, marking five years in a row without a bid for the Illini. Since we still have March Madness fever at The Champaign Room, we’re holding our Greatest Illini Men’s Basketball Player Ever Tournament this month, and you’re going to decide the winners.
Today we’re continuing with the Final Four. We feature two matchups with some of the greatest Illini in history, and at this point, they’re all legends.
Check out our preview of each matchup and then vote for which player you think deserves to move on in our bracket to the Championship. Voting will be open for one day.
Deon Thomas (1) vs. Deron Williams (2)
Deon Thomas is a No. 1 seed for a reason. No Illinois player has scored more points than Deon Thomas. His accolades go back to his high school career too, where he was a McDonald’s All American, Mr. Basketball in Illinois and a Chicago legend from Simeon Career Academy. In many ways, Deon Thomas sets the standard for in-state, home-grown recruiting excellence.
Deron Williams was the best player on the best Illinois Basketball team of this millennium. Just this past week, Illini fans celebrated the 13th anniversary of the remarkable comeback victory over the Arizona Wildcats in the Elite Eight in 2005. In that game, Williams scored a team-high 22 points and had 10 assists en route to what would be a Final Four berth. More than his natural talent, Deron Williams had a feel for the game unlike any Illini we’ve ever seen. He was a great teammate and was more than willing to share the ball. Just months later, Deron Williams was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Deon Thomas (1) or Deron Williams (2)?
This poll is closed
Deon Thomas (1)
Deron Williams (2)
Dee Brown (1) vs. Nick Anderson (3)
If Deron Williams was the most talented player on the 2005 Illinois basketball team that went to the Final Four, there is no doubt Dee Brown was the heart and soul of that team that still captures the imagination of Illini fans everywhere. Dee Brown played with such fire and passion, and he was the true leader of arguably the greatest group of Illini ever assembled on one team. Dee Brown averaged 13.2 points, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals over the course of his four-year Illini career. In 2004-05, Brown led the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage and steals per game, and he ranked third in the conference in true shooting percentage — an amazing stat for a guard.
Nick Anderson was Deon Thomas before Deon Thomas was Deon Thomas. Let me explain. Like Deon Thomas, Nick Anderson was a Chicago native and a Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois from Simeon Career Academy on the city’s southside. Anderson averaged 18 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game for a 1989 Illini team that reached the Final Four. Anderson was arguably the most talented player amongst a group of teammates that included Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo, Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton and Marcus Liberty. His Illini career lasted just two seasons before he was drafted 11th overall in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic in the franchise’s inaugural season.
Dee Brown (1) or Nick Anderson (3)?
This poll is closed
Dee Brown (1)
Nick Anderson (3)
Here is the entire bracket as it stands.