Big Ten

Mark Smith picks Illini, giving Brad Underwood a huge recruiting win

Mark Smith picks Illini, giving Brad Underwood a huge recruiting win

Brad Underwood's tenure at Illinois hasn't gotten off to the smoothest start, but that will all be forgotten after a huge recruiting win Wednesday.

Mark Smith, the Land of Lincoln's Mr. Basketball out of Edwardsville High School, picked the Illini on Wednesday night, spurning a host of other suitors including Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Kentucky and Duke.

Smith is not just committed to Illinois but already signed to a National Letter of Intent, the school announced, making him an official member of the program's incoming freshman class.

For Underwood, landing Smith — ranked as the No. 52 prospect in the Class of 2017 — will not just cushion the blow of a pair of losses from earlier this spring, with Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett asking out of their National Letters of Intent. It will provide a spark of excitement across the fan base.

It's the kind of huge recruiting win that Underwood's predecessor John Groce could rarely claim. Only Tilmon and the rest of this year's recruiting class marked big-time success on the trail for Groce, and he was fired before he was able to coach any of those players.

Smith had a tremendous senior season, averaging 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals during a 30-win campaign. He scored 30 or more points in eight games and scored in double figures in all but one of his team's 32 contests.

Smith's commitment to Illinois restores much of the prestige to a halved recruiting class that once again claims a trio of four-star recruits, Smith joining Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams after the departures of Tilmon, a four-star recruit, and Pickett, a three-star recruit.

Underwood now can claim some serious momentum after a rocky beginning to his Illinois tenure. In addition to the departures of Tilmon and Pickett, the Illini lost out to Kansas on former Morgan Park star Charlie Moore, who transferred after one season at Cal. Illinois is reportedly still in the mix for Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg Jr.

Underwood also adds Smith to what was a roster short on scholarship players, particularly after the decisions of Tilmon and Pickett. Smith, along with Frazier and Williams, join returning players D.J. Williams, Kipper Nichols, Te'Jon Lucas, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Leron Black, Aaron Jordan and Michael Finke for Underwood's first season in Champaign.

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.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.