Big Ten

Javon Pickett asks out of Letter of Intent, Illini lose second signed recruit in matter of days

Javon Pickett asks out of Letter of Intent, Illini lose second signed recruit in matter of days

Illinois' blockbuster recruiting class for 2017 has taken another major hit.

Javon Pickett, a three-star guard from Belleville, announced Saturday that he's asking to be released from his National Letter of Intent after the Illini replaced John Groce with Brad Underwood last month.

"Thank you to the University of Illinois for supporting my family and I during my recruitment. However, after the coaching change, I experienced a level of apprehension due to the relationship my family and I developed with coach Groce. After long thoughts and prayers, I have decided to ask for my release from my NLI," Pickett wrote in a Twitter post. "Coach Underwood has been highly supportive during this transition, however I need to ensure that as a student-athlete I am putting myself in the best possible situation to succeed both as a student and athlete.

"During this period, I would like to stress that all options remain open to include the University of Illinois. I want to thank the fans and staff of Illini Nation, your support has been tremendous from the very beginning."

Pickett's announcement follows that of Jeremiah Tilmon, a five-star center, who announced earlier this week that he was requesting his release from his Letter of Intent in the wake of the coaching change.

While both Tilmon and Pickett could still end up in orange and blue, it's hard to think that one would take the drastic step of asking for a release if one was leaning toward staying with the school they signed with.

Instead, it points to Illinois losing half of its highly touted recruiting class, leaving four-star guards Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams — who have confirmed their commitments to the Illini since Underwood's arrival — as the sole members of the incoming class.

Add that to a roster that will say goodbye to a lot of members of this year's team, and Underwood could be scrambling to put together a team for his first season in Champaign. Jaylon Tate, Tracy Abrams, Malcolm Hill, Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr. are all departing this offseason, leaving just seven returning scholarship players plus the two incoming freshmen for a total of just nine scholarship players.

While both Underwood and athletics director Josh Whitman said during recent press conferences that they would reach out to keep the recruiting class intact, the decisions of Tilmon and Pickett are understandable ones. The recruits made their commitments to Groce and now face a situation in which they'd be playing for a totally different coach. Underwood retained assistant coach Jamall Walker, who has had recent recruiting success. But the recruits were set to get something different than they signed up for, and they shouldn't be blamed for taking the opportunity to reconsider their decisions.

But these decisions won't make Illinois basketball fans too happy, as it halves what was a top-15 recruiting class in the country, certainly the best one Groce assembled in his five seasons in Champaign.

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

USA Today

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

The Northwestern Wildcats have stopped football workouts due to a player testing positive for COVID-19. A university spokesperson says, the school is now undergoing “rigorous contact tracing and quarantine protocols to protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

Some student-athletes have already been placed in quarantine, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The earliest any football activities can resume for the Wildcats is Wednesday, according to the university spokesperson.

Michigan State required their entire football team to go into quarantine in late July after several positive tests among players and staff.

In addition, the Big Ten announced they will play a conference-only schedule in 2020, if they’re able to play at all.

RELATED: Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

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Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

Hall of Fame former Fighting Illini head basketball coach Lou Henson died last Saturday. He was 88 years old.

Henson was the all-time wins leader at the University of Illinois, guiding the team to a 423-224 record from 1975-1996. That included a 214-164 record in Big Ten Conference play, and one Big Ten conference title in 1984.

He also led the Illini to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, the highlight being a Final Four berth with the 1988-89 “Flying Illini.”

"Our Orange and Blue hearts are heavy," said Josh Whitman, Illinois Director of Athletics, in a statement. "We have lost an Illini icon. We have lost a role model, a friend, and a leader. We have lost our coach.

“Coach Henson may be gone, but the memories he provided us, and the legacy he created, will last forever. He was responsible for almost 800 wins in the record book and countless Fighting Illini moments frozen in time, but Coach Henson's true measure will be felt in the lives he touched – the lives of his former players, people on this campus, and friends in our broader community.

“We are all better for whatever time we were privileged to spend with Coach Lou, whether it was five minutes or 50 years. He made everyone feel like a friend. I so enjoyed my time with Coach these last five years, and I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Lisa, Lori, Leigh Anne, and the entire Henson family. Their family will always be part of ours."

In addition to his iconic career at the University of Illinois, Henson coached at New Mexico State where he compiled another 289 victories, from 1966-1975 and 1997-2005. Henson is the wins leader at New Mexico State, as well.

His 779 career wins rank 28th all-time in NCAA history. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Hall of Fame in 2015. The same year, the newly renovated court at Illinois was renamed “Lou Henson Court.” The basketball court at New Mexico State is named “Lou Henson Court,” as well.

“He really was ahead of the game, in terms of bringing fan interaction and fan connection to a program,” said Stephen Bardo, one of Henson’s former players in a video on Twitter. “For me, Lou Henson’s voice got louder the longer after I left school. The more of an adult I became, the older my kids became, I would hear coach Henson’s voice more. I would impart the lessons I learned from him onto my children.

“He had an enormous impact on my life.”

RELATED: Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'