With Law as coach, Illini get recharged for season



By Anthony Zilis

Jolette Law’s words rang prophetically as she took the stage and was introduced as the new head coach of the Illinois women’s basketball team.

“Today, May 11, 2007, I speak it into existence that we will win a Big Ten Championship, we will go to the NCAA’s and we will win a National Championship at the University of Illinois,” Law vowed.

These were high hopes for a team, who, under former coach Theresa Grentz, had only one NCAA tournament appearance in the last seven years.

Law led Illinois to 20-15 record in her first season and a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament.

But the real change was still to come.

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After the 2007-08 season, the Fighting Illini lost three players due to graduation, three due to personal reasons and one to injury.

The Illini returned only three players that logged any playing time last season. They were forced to replenish the team with four freshmen recruits, a junior college transfer, a redshirt freshman and a walk-on.

But the turnover wasn’t enough to shake Law’s confidence at the beginning of the 2008-09 season.

“I’m extremely excited about this upcoming season,” she said at this year’s Illini media day. “We have, right now, nine players and we’ll be the nine strong. I can say that the leadership of my upperclassmen has been fantastic all summer long and we’re just trying to build from where we were last year in the Big Ten Tournament.”

It hasn’t been easy this season for the young Illini who, after winning their first three games, have lost six straight before defeating University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

After going somewhat easy on her youngsters to start off the season, Law said she’s going back to running tough, defense-oriented practices.

If Illini fans think Law will let the Orange and Blue falter for any stretch of time, they may be sorely mistaken. Law has inked a top-five recruiting class for next season.

But more important than any turnover in personnel is the change in attitude that Law has brought to an Illinois program that was sorely in need of a boost.

No longer is it acceptable to let highly-touted recruits get away or to settle for anything but a championship, while thoughts of Big Ten and national championships may not seem so far-fetched.