Lack of Leadership leaves Illini at a loss

By Lucas Deal

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Attention all readers, the Illinois basketball team is now accepting applications for a team leader.

The Illinois basketball program is one of the most successful teams in Big Ten and NCAA history, with more than 1,560 total wins and five Final Four appearances.

As recently as two seasons ago, the Illini spent an unprecendented 15 weeks on top of the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Polls en route to an NCAA record-tying 37 wins and a National Championship appearance.

Applicants must be personable, likeable and understanding, but must also have the necessary vocal skills required to command a room or huddle when needed.

Interested players may submit an application for the team leader position to Illini head coach Bruce Weber at Ubben Basketball Facility in Champaign.

Now I know what you’re thinking, what in the world did I just read? Is Illinois really accepting applications for a team leader? Is this true or not?

Well, technically, it’s not. Someone off the street can’t actually apply and become Illinois’ team leader, but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t need one.

On Wednesday night, the Illini lost their second consecutive game, 71-61 at Michigan. The loss drops the Illini to 12-4 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten Conference; and in danger of losing their third straight game for the first time in Weber’s tenure as Illinois’ head coach.

While Illinois’ offense wasn’t nearly what has been in the past and their defensive effort was very poor, the real reason the Illini weren’t able to beat Michigan was because they didn’t have a team leader who could help push them over the hump.

This has never been a problem in the past, but this year, it is becoming a major issue. That’s because for the first time since Weber arrived in Champaign he’s without a floor leader. I hate to say it, but he’s without a Dee Brown.

Weber runs a good system, but he can’t maximize the system or his players talents without getting at least a little assistance from them. When he gives an order, he needs a second guy there to reiterate what he’s said so the players actually realize that it’s important.

When asked about his team’s leaders after Wednesday night’s loss, Weber simply responded, “We don’t have any.”

That’s not something you want to hear halfway through the season.

And with No. 4 Ohio State on the way to Champaign-Urbana this weekend, it’s getting to be crunch time for the Illini to turn things around. If they want to have a chance to win the Big Ten, they have to end this skid.

Somebody has to step up; somebody has to submit an application. The box is in the hallway; let’s hope somebody drops one in.