Eight guys, who all, in their own way, were outcasts or forgotten about. Broken toys, incomplete.
Kyle Vinales. Can you even name Central Connecticut State’s mascot off the top of your head?
Billy Garrett, Jr. A memorable career at DePaul. A cup of coffee with the Knicks. (I’d rather play for the Blue Demons.)
Leron Black. Mr. Tennessee Basketball, and a great Illinois career. Never got to experience a tournament, didn’t have his coming out party until his final season.
Michael Finke. The pride of Champaign, but ended at Grand Canyon with his brother. Never played in a tourney, always had beautiful hair.
Nnanna Egwu. Didn’t have it all in college. Now always going to be remembered as the guy who blocked shots, even if he can make threes.
Mike Daum. Played at South Dakota State. A historic NCAA career, and just itching and clawing at the chance to play in the Association.
Malcolm Hill. Maybe one of the most beloved Illinois Basketball players ever, but never got a tournament, never was a winner, just an incredibly hard worker. As he ‘gets up there in age,’ this may be his last chance to get a chance at the NBA.
Mike LaTulip. A walk-on with a coach’s mind. And now a GM too, I guess?
And Andres Feliz.
The bulldog. Our guy. And our hearts broke for him in March.
But now, they’re all winners — together.
A little sweet it came against tOSU guys.
Hate to see them lose. Ha.
If it’s not obvious, this tournament is so much more than just pick-up basketball, or the $1 million prize. It’s about the pieces coming together and shocking everyone on a Wednesday afternoon in July.
And we’re proud, even if they’re not all Illini.