Chelleen earns first collegiate start

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Wesley Deberry

At a pivotal juncture of Sunday’s game against the Purdue Boilermakers, Illini forward Stephanie Chelleen capitalized on three straight attempts from beyond the arc, helping the Illini to a 63-55 victory. The senior’s consistent stroke may not have been so accurate without the aid of “BEEF.” But this kind of beef cannot be bought at a local grocery store. In this case, BEEF refers to a fundamental drill taught to Chelleen during her time at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa.

The first rule of B.E.E.F. is balance – stand with your feet shoulder width apart in an athletic stance. Second, have your eyes on the rim. Third, have your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Finally, follow through on your shot.

“That’s where I learned how to shoot,” Chelleen said. “Obviously I could shoot a little bit before that, but I never really had anyone break it down for me.”

Chelleen’s fundamentally sound shooting has earned her occasional bragging rights as the knockout champion in the Illini locker room. Since the start of her collegiate career, the Illini have played a game of knockout in every pregame warm-up.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Chelleen said. “It’s something to relax us before the game.”

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Though she boasts solid fundamentals, Chelleen admitted she was nervous about Sunday’s game.

After four years of waiting and working, Chelleen was rewarded with her first collegiate start.

For the senior, it was an “honor” to start in the last home game of her career.

“She has earned it in practice,” Illini head coach Jolette Law said. “She’s always there, even if she is in pain, cheering everybody else on.”

The pain that Law refers to is a foot injury that Chelleen has battled throughout the season. Before every game, Law and Chelleen agree on how many minutes she will be able to play.

“If she is not feeling well or her foot is hurting, I am not going to put her in the game too long,” Law said. “I care more about Stephanie than getting a win.”

In her last collegiate home game, Chelleen sucked it up and played as if she was injury-free, scoring a career-high 14 points.

While Chelleen’s play brought the fans to their feet at Assembly Hall and provided the Illini some momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament, the happiest people at the game may have been the Chelleen family. The forward’s performance brought tears to the eyes of her older sister, Ashley.

“They were just really excited for me,” Chelleen said.

Illini of the week honorable mention

Abe Souza – Men’s tennis

Souza played his best tennis of the year last weekend, fueling the Illini in wins over No. 13 Notre Dame and Big Ten rival Michigan State. The freshman registered a straight-set singles win, as well as an 8-4 victory in doubles against the Spartans Friday. Souza followed suit with a resilient 6-1, 6-7(6), 1-0 (10-3) triumph over Notre Dame’s Tyler Davis on Saturday to finish 3-1 overall on the weekend.

Shaun Pruitt – Men’s basketball

The senior center helped the Illini snap a three-game losing streak with 18 points and seven rebounds in Saturday’s victory over Iowa. Pruitt connected on seven of 10 shots from the field and shot 4-for-4 from the line.