Illinois volleyball to join basketball madness

Illinois basketball head coach Bruce Weber and Illinois volleyball head coach Kevin Hambly joined forces Monday to announce plans for the basketball program’s 2009 installment of the annual Illini Madness event, titled “Spike the Record at Illini Madness.”

The Illinois volleyball team will host a game against Minnesota before the men’s basketball team takes the court for the first official team practice of the season.

“There’s a lot of excitement with the event,” Weber said. “Not only for our program, but for the entire athletic department, the University, and it’s great for the community.”

Last year’s event — “World’s Biggest Basketball Practice” — set a record for the largest crowd ever for a men’s basketball practice and the highest attendance for any women’s basketball event.

This year’s event will feature the Illini volleyball team’s attempt to set an NCAA record for attendance, currently held by North Carolina. Last season, the Tar Heels took on Clemson in front of an all-time high attendance of 13,797. Both Hambly and Weber expressed confidence in besting the current mark. A new NCAA record would also beat the current Illini Madness attendance record of 12,000.

The joint event will take place on Oct. 16 at Assembly Hall, beginning with the volleyball team’s matchup with the Minnesota Gophers. Illinois and Minnesota, both projected to be ranked in the top 10, will begin play at 6:30 p.m.

“It’s exciting for me and the staff with just the vision of setting a new attendance record and doing something special that nobody has ever done before,” Hambly said. “The amount of support from the community and the administration to do this will really solidify us in the recruiting world.”

After the volleyball game will be the basketball portion, with the annual Illini Madness event consisting of a scrimmage and dunk contest.

The Illini basketball team uses the event to usher in the upcoming season and introduce the new squad.

The 2009 Illini will be without starters Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham but will add a freshman class that is ranked No. 13 in the country by Rivals.com.

Looking to replace Frazier and Meacham in the backcourt will be incoming freshmen D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul, both ranked in the top 50 in the 2009 class.

“(The freshmen) grew up watching these kinds of events on TV and dream about being a part of that one day,” Weber said. “It’s important to them, with it being the first time they’ll run out there in an Illini jersey, and with the recruits watching, it adds up to a big night for us.”

Admission to the event is free, with over 125,000 free tickets to be distributed throughout the Champaign area.

Only the first 16,600 attendees will be guaranteed a seat, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.