Smith will sit out this season

By Steve Contorno

Junior Jamar Smith will remain a student and member of the Illini basketball team for the 2007-08 school year, but head coach Bruce Weber announced Wednesday that Smith will redshirt the upcoming season.

The athletic department released a statement on Wednesday from Weber that said it was in Smith’s “best interest” to sit out the 2007-08 season.

“(Smith) is in the process of meeting his legal obligations while continuing to work on personal issues,” Weber said in the statement. ” … We’ll continue to monitor his progress. If all obligations are met then he’ll return to competition for the 2008-09 season.”

Assistant Athletic Director Kent Brown said Smith is practicing and preparing with the team for an upcoming trip to Canada for several exhibitions. Brown also said Smith took classes during the summer at the University.

Smith, a shooting guard from Peoria, Ill., was convicted of a felony on May 24 and served a 15-day jail sentence for drunken driving. Following the conviction, Smith will be on probation for two years, will be subject to random drug and alcohol testing and will have to complete roughly 100 hours of community service.

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The sentencing stemmed from an incident in February when Smith was the driver in a vehicle that crashed into a tree and left teammate Brian Carlwell hospitalized with a severe concussion for several days. It was released later that Smith’s blood alcohol level was .176.

Carlwell was not able to recover in time to play for the rest of the season. Smith also did not play following the accident.

O Canada

The Illinois men’s basketball team announced on Wednesday it will compete in several games north of the border prior to the 2007-08 season. The Illini will depart Aug. 31 for a Labor Day Weekend tour of Canada to compete in five games.

It will be the Illini’s first trip abroad since the summer of 2003 when Weber took the Illini to Sweden, Finland and Estonia.

“Going to Canada should be a great start to our season and will help bring the team together early on,” Weber said in a press release. “We have a very difficult nonconference schedule, especially at the beginning, so we need to take advantage of this opportunity in order to be ready come November. This trip will allow important practice and game situations for our new players, and will also serve as a fresh start for some of our returning guys who battled through injuries last season.”

The games will be played after the school year begins, so recruits and transfers to the team will be allowed to compete in the exhibitions.

Where’s Watkins?

Weber and the Illini will have to wait for freshman recruit Quinton Watkins to come to Illinois. According to a press release, Watkins is still in California fulfilling requirements for fall enrollment.

“We continue to wait on documentation regarding Quinton Watkins’ eligibility,” Weber said in the statement.

“We hope the situation is resolved soon,” he added.

Watkins, a three-star recruit from Compton, Calif., played for Dominguez High School in 2006-07 and signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Illinois on April 11, making him the fourth member of the recruiting class. The Illini have added two more athletes since then.

Jeff LaBelle contributed to this report