Carlwell showing signs of improvement

Freshman center Brian Carlwell’s condition has been improved to fair following a car accident at the 2000 block of South First Street in Champaign late Monday night, Assistant Athletics Director Kent Brown confirmed Wednesday morning. Carlwell and sophomore Jamar Smith both suffered concussions when the car Smith was driving crashed into a tree, Brown confirmed on Monday.

“Obviously, there has been some improvement,” Brown said. “We’re hoping he will get his own room today and start getting back at things.”

Smith was treated and released from Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana Tuesday morning, but Carlwell was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.

Brown said several members of the Illinois basketball team visited Carlwell on Tuesday. Head coach Bruce Weber intended to return to the hospital after leaving Tuesday morning, but was unable to because the winter storm kept him snowed in at his house.

University police still did not have an accident report available to the press as of Wednesday morning.

The accident was the latest in a series of personnel setbacks for Illini basketball.

Head coach Bruce Weber and athletic trainer Al Martindale spent much of Monday night at the hospital with the two players. Carlwell’s parents left their home in Maywood, Ill., early Tuesday morning and arrived safely in Champaign despite hazardous weather conditions.

“Certainly, our thoughts are on the health and recovery of our two student-athletes, and in supporting Coach Weber and our basketball program,” Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther said in a press release Tuesday afternoon.

Smith was cited for improper lane usage, Brown said, and campus police say further action is possible depending on the outcome of a pending investigation.

Brown said he could not comment on what contributed to the crash, although the winter storm that forced classes to be canceled may have been a factor. He said he also could not comment on whether Smith, 19, had been drinking.

“I cannot and I would not confirm that. It’s a legal matter,” Brown said. “Our concern right now is the health of these two guys.”

The vehicle, a 1996 Lexus, was registered to Smith’s grandparents, Leroy and Salmena Smith, whom he lives with in Peoria.

Basketball practice was cancelled Tuesday, and Brown said as of Tuesday afternoon no decision had been made about Wednesday’s practice.

“There is no way you could expect guys to focus on practice after what happened,” he said.

Brown said no decision had been made yet about Smith’s status for Sunday’s home game against Northwestern.

“I don’t think we’ve even touched that at this point,” Brown said. “That’s something Coach will decide later.”

Smith, a sophomore guard, averages 8.1 points per game for the Illini. Carlwell, a freshman, sees limited minutes as a reserve center, averaging 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.

The Illini (18-9, 6-6 Big Ten) have struggled throughout the season with injuries across every position.

Only three players, forward/center Shaun Pruitt and guards Calvin Brock and Trent Meacham, have played every game.