Health returns to Illinois men’s basketball team

By Erik Hall

When the Illinois men’s basketball team held a scrimmage Saturday to entice recruit Austin Jackson from Denton, Texas, junior guard Dee Brown felt ready to challenge the quick guard.

“I’m going to play,” Brown said before Saturday’s scrimmage. “You’re going to see me out there.”

However, Illinois basketball trainer Al Martindale did not like the idea of Brown playing at all.

“When I got out there, they said don’t play,” Brown said after the scrimmage.

Instead of playing for the first time in a month, Brown lounged at various spots around the Ubben practice court while Jackson showed he could effectively take over as Illinois’ point guard once Brown leaves the Illini.

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Before the scrimmage started, Brown spent some time shooting set shots beyond the three-point arc. Brown wore a protective guard over his right shin and looked like he could give Jackson a challenge Saturday.

“I can play anytime,” Brown said.

Brown just does not know when trainers will tell him it is OK to go out and again become the one-man fast break.

“I’m just sitting back and being patient,” Brown said. “I just shoot and that’s it – biking, lifting and shooting.”

The main question is still whether Brown will be ready to go for Illinois’ first game.

“Yep,” Brown said.

FULL RECOVERY

Two Illinois men’s basketball players who had surgery earlier this summer played and played well in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Junior James Augustine’s right elbow has a two-inch scar and sophomore Brian Randle’s shoulder displays a six-inch scar. Other than those marks, no signs remain from their surgeries last spring.

“It hasn’t been hurting me since I’ve been back to school,” Randle said. “It is OK. Right now, I’m just getting it back to where it was before the surgery.”

Randle stayed out of the slam dunk competition that followed the scrimmage, avoiding the shoulder gyrations that players like freshman Calvin Brock displayed.

When Augustine backed down freshman Shaun Pruitt using his right elbow, only Pruitt felt pain.

“You can hit it now and it doesn’t bother anything unless it hits the floor real hard or something hard like that, but it’s 100 percent,” Augustine said. “It’s just like I never had surgery.”

A pad could dampen the impact if Augustine’s elbow hits the floor, but Augustine does not plan to look like Charles Barkley in the 1993 NBA Finals.

“I should be wearing an elbow pad, but they said if you don’t want to you don’t have to,” Augustine said. “It’s uncomfortable for me, so I just decided not to wear it. It just gets in the way I think.”

Jackson visits Illinois

In a dimly lit hallway of the Ubben Basketball Practice Facility on Saturday, basketball recruit Austin Jackson stood out for not wearing an Illinois polo shirt. When the players took the court, Jackson stood out for his quickness.

“He’s got an exceptional first step as far as physical ability,” said Bryce Overstreet, Jackson’s basketball coach at Billy Ryan High School in Denton, Texas. “His athleticism is better than anyone I’ve ever coached. He’s a great baseball player and great basketball player. His work ethic is exceptional.”

Jackson earned recognition as a Texas all-state outfielder in 2003 and 2004. He is expected to be drafted in the June 2005 Major League Baseball draft but still plans to play college basketball.

On Jackson’s official recruiting visit to Illinois, he visited Illinois’ alumni baseball game, the Illinois vs. UCLA football game and the historic upset by the Illinois volleyball team against No. 1 Southern California.

“It’s been great,” said Albert Jackson, Austin’s dad. “We’ve had a good time. We’ve enjoyed everything.”