Column: Preseason awards

By Ian Gold

The preseason is kind of a season, so these are kind of awards.

We have been treated to many different forms of basketball in the first few glimpses of this year’s Illini. We have winced together at the clear difference in offensive fluidity. We have smiled together after realizing Deron Williams’ departure didn’t signal the apocalypse.

Because the exhibition games don’t show up on Illinois’ record, its recaps won’t appear in this column. Instead, feast your eyes on the preseason awards. Some matter and some don’t, but that’s just the kind of story this is.

MVP – Guess who, Dee Brown. When the ball is in his hands the offense works, when he is on the floor the defense plays with intensity. Dee is the face of Illinois. Through two games, he led the team in points and assists. Orange faithful should worry less about his play and more on whether a jersey retirement is in order.

Biggest Surprise – It could be that Brian Randle has a tattoo, but it has to go to Shaun Pruitt. He is playing so good right now that it will be hard not to start him. He had been mentioned as a solid contributor, but nobody was ready for the way he would come into this season – in great shape and determined to step up.

Defensive Player of the Preseason – Brian Randle might be Illinois’ best defensive player, but Wesleyan and Quincy’s point guards haven’t let its inhalers out of sight because Chester Frazier gave them no room to breathe. Frazier is lock down defensively, it’s no fluke that Frazier has took on Dee in practice and accepted every challenge the All-American can dish out.

Illinois player most primed to be the real MVP – A beefed up James Augustine has not forgotten how to run the floor and get easy baskets. What he has learned is that he can dominate down low. Two things we have seen early from Augi is dunks and the ability to drive. Last year, he tended to lay it up when he could have slammed it, and perhaps nothing is more dangerous in college basketball than a big man that can catch at the foul line and get to the hoop.

Best looking with a broken nose – You thought he was cute before hand; Warren Carter with a broken nose is precious. On a serious note he is supposed to be healthy soon and wearing a mask. The mask should not inhibit his play, Rip Hamilton loves his. When Illinois returns to open its season against South Dakota State, the Phantom of Assembly Hall deserves a warm welcome.

Wet! – This is a shooting award, and it’s a tie. Freshman Jamar Smith and Dee Brown can deal with a tie.

They both should take it as a compliment. Dee Brown didn’t let the offseason’s rust affect his shot, it’s still ridiculous.

Jamar Smith has the best looking shot on the team and gets it off so quick it’s unblockable.

They both showed off their jumpers and proved they will fill it up when it counts.

Work in progress – I think people got a little carried away with their expectations for Calvin Brock. Luther Head departed and left a vacant hole in the hearts of Illini fans, they were too quick to try and fill it. Brock is a work in progress, his redshirt was a good idea, but his skills are still not to where they would need to be in order to significantly contribute.

ÿRobbing the cradle award -ÿAll three freshmen and the coaching staff gets this one. Weber can’t recruit, Weber can’t recruit, well take a look at the freshmen we have now. They all look like they should contribute and none were exactly voted most popular amongst college coaches.

Next cult hero – Chester Frazier is a lock down defender and leaves it all on the court and can shake the mess out of his opponents. He already got the “Chester Frazier” chant from the Orange Krush, and is the tough player that fans worship. Illinois also needs Frazier in order to get the most out of Dee.

Ian Gold is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]