Orange Krush plans to ‘welcome’ Gordon



By Jason Grodsky

The Orange Krush would like to deliver a message to Eric Gordon when he walks through the tunnel and onto the court of the Assembly Hall on Thursday.

They want him to know that they will be waiting for him when he takes the floor, and that he will be playing in the most hostile environment he’s been in all season.

The 6-foot-4 freshman guard is sure to be the center of attention for the media and fans Thursday night when Indiana (18-3, 7-1 Big Ten) plays at Illinois (10-13, 2-8). The Big Ten’s leading scorer will be making his first trip to Champaign to play against a team whose jersey most thought a year-and-a-half ago he’d currently be wearing. It has fans amped up for the most important series of home games this season.

“It’s a big game for the fans,” said Eric Benz, president of Orange Krush, the student cheering section. “It starts off a big stretch for the team. If they beat Indiana at home it gives them confidence when they play Wisconsin and Michigan State at home next.”

After Gordon backed out of his original verbal commitment to the Illini and signed to play at Indiana, it made him public enemy number one in Orange and Blue country.

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Despite forecasted snow showers, the Illinois student section will be out in full force to see the Illini take on the Hoosiers, in what could be Gordon’s only game in Champaign if he decides to make the leap to the NBA at the end of the season.

“People may be arriving a bit later, but by the time tip-off rolls around it will be full,” Benz said. “People are looking forward to not only cheering the Illini on to victory but also giving Gordon and (Kelvin) Sampson a piece of their mind.”

Whether the Orange Krush will be able to get under Gordon’s skin is yet to be seen. But Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson believes his star player won’t be bothered by the extracurricular activities going on courtside.

“He’s a human being,” Sampson told reporters this week. “I’m sure that is something that will be on his mind, but I think once he takes the court and plays the game, he’ll be fine.”

Sampson is no stranger to harassment from Illini fans.

Last season, Sampson brought his No. 24-ranked Hoosiers to Champaign and walked on the court to a chorus of boo’s and chants of “Call me Kelvin” from the Orange Krush, referring to Sampson’s discipline from the NCAA for violating phone call restrictions to recruits.

After his team’s 51-43 loss to the Illini on Jan. 23, 2007, Sampson downplayed the Weber-Sampson saga and praised the Illini faithful for supporting their team the way they do.

“It’s a great crowd,” Sampson said following the loss. “They’ve got great fans and good teams feed off their home crowd.”

Benz said the Orange Krush will again be prepared to welcome Sampson and the Hoosiers to the Assembly Hall this year. He wouldn’t reveal any plans until the teams take to the court, just that the students would have “a few tricks up their sleeves.”