COLUMN: Writer holds hoop dreams for future

By Jeremy Werner

Favorite story

This is too easy. At the Big Ten Tournament, I ran into Erin Andrews and decided I just had to talk to her. You see, I’m a big fan, like many ESPN-watching college males. Sadly, Andrews’ beauty often overshadows how good of a reporter she is. She gave a great interview and was extremely kind to someone she didn’t have to give any time to.

Best game I covered

Another amazingly easy question. Illinois’ victory over Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament was the kind of basketball I was waiting for all year. Demetri McCamey proved in that game that he is the future of the program.

Most challenging story

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This would definitely be my column on Jereme Richmond, a sophomore commit from Waukegan, Ill. Richmond was kicked off his high school team after an argument with his coach. It was tough because it’s hard to criticize a 15-year-old kid. Richmond seems like he’s got a good head on his shoulders and should be a big-time talent for Weber in 2010.

Play of the year

Eric Gordon’s banked three-pointer to tie the Illini with 23.4 seconds sent the much-awaited Feb. 7 matchup with Indiana into overtime. The shot silenced an angry and mob-like Assembly Hall crowd. Indiana eventually won the game 83-79 in double overtime, giving Gordon the last laugh in the decommit drama, while Illini fans were forced to keep sulking over what could have been.

Best quote

This quote was headline news on Deadspin.com.

This is Erin Andrews telling me how she felt about being named Playboy’s “sexiest sportscaster”:

“That they have no idea I have zits and that I run on five hours of sleep. It was very flattering. It was very nice for the people to vote, but I’m the biggest tomboy out there and don’t look anything like ‘The Girls Next Door,’ like the girls that live with Hugh Hefner. So it was very nice, but come on.”

Best interview

This isn’t a specific interview, but a man. Bruce Weber didn’t really hold anything back this season. He tells it like it is, which is much appreciated, especially from a journalist’s point of view.

Most telling off-the-field moment

Bruce Weber didn’t have much to look forward to coming into the season, but with four commits this season, the future looks bright for Illinois basketball. Joseph Bertrand (’09), Brandon Paul (’09), D.J. Richardson (’09), Tyler Griffey (’09) and Crandall Head (’10) gave Weber something to smile about in an otherwise disappointing year.

Story line for ’08-’09

Weber will have a new team with a new attitude, but there are still many unanswered questions. Can Demetri McCamey be the man? Can Jamar Smith bounce back from off-the-court issues and a year off? How good can Kentucky transfer Alex Legion be?