Big Ten

Illini hire Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood as next head basketball coach

Illini hire Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood as next head basketball coach

Illinois' coaching search has reached a rapid end.

The Fighting Illini announced Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood the program's newest head basketball coach Saturday, finding John Groce's successor just a week after his five-season tenure came to an end.

"I am excited to welcome Brad Underwood, his wife Susan and their three children to the Fighting Illini family," Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman said in the announcement. "In searching for a new coach, we were looking for a proven winner who would build upon our proud tradition while developing an unmistakable identity for Illinois basketball. Brad's teams play a fast, aggressive style and show unyielding toughness. They have a tremendous energy that I believe will ignite the Orange Krush and our fans to once again make State Farm Center one of the most intimidating venues in all of college basketball. Off the court, Brad builds strong, personal relationships with his student-athletes. His winning combination of strong Midwest values and tenacious work ethic are a perfect fit for our community and the Illini Nation."

Underwood just wrapped up his first season at Oklahoma State, taking over after three years at Stephen F. Austin, where he led the Lumberjacks to three straight NCAA tournament appearances.

The Cowboys were a No. 10 seed in this year's NCAA tournament, ousted Friday in a one-point loss to Illinois' Big Ten conferece-mate Michigan.

Underwood's Oklahoma State team ranked sixth nationally this season in scoring, averaging 85.7 points a game. The season before he took over, the Cowboys ranked 303rd nationally in scoring.

Underwood went 89-14 overall and 53-1 in conference games in his three seasons at Stephen F. Austin before posting a 20-13 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Big 12 play this season at Oklahoma State.

Prior to his days leading Stephen F. Austin, Underwood worked as a power-conference assistant at Kansas State and South Carolina under both Bob Huggins and Frank Martin. He also was an assistant coach at Western Illinois.

"Coaching basketball at the University of Illinois is a once-in-lifetime opportunity," Underwood said in the announcement. "The players, fans and administration at Oklahoma State have been absolutely incredible, and I want to thank them for the support they've given me and my family over the last year. However, during my time at Western Illinois, I always saw the Illinois coaching job as one of the truly best in the nation. I want to thank Josh Whitman for the opportunity to join the Fighting Illini family and look forward to working with him to build a championship program. I can't wait to get started with our team. Next season can't get here fast enough for me."

Whitman tweeted this picture out Saturday afternoon.

Illinois' season is not yet over, the team still alive in the NIT. The Illini play Boise State on Monday in Champaign.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.