Longtime Champaign News-Gazette sports columnist Loren Tate hit the nail on the head with his recent list of 20 former Illinois basketball players whose jerseys should be retired and hung in the Assembly Hall.
Oh, some people already have nominated other players. Even Tate had trouble overlooking some old-timers. But his list of 20, very similar to Illinois' All-Century lineup that was announced a year ago, is a virtual no-brainer.
When considering another player, ask yourself this question: Which of the 20 would I drop to make room? I certainly couldn't find a reason to insert another player.
Guards: Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Andy Phillip, Derek Harper, Bruce Douglas, Kiwane Garris, Kendall Gill, Frank Williams.
Centers: Johnny "Red" Kerr, Skip Thoren, Deon Thomas.
Forwards: Dike Eddleman, Dave Downey, Don Freeman, Nick Weatherspoon, Eddie Johnson, Ken Colliers Norman, Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Brian Cook.
What I find most interesting about the group is 17 of them are Illinois products. Only Deron Williams, Harper and Weatherspoon are out-of-staters. I wonder how many other state schools from coast to coast can make that statement.
Tate's list of "others" who were considered but fell short includes Wally Osterkorn,Dave Scholz, Don Ohl, Don Sunderlage, Paul Judson, Luther Head, Tal Brody, Rod Fletcher and Jim Dawson. I might add Mannie Jackson and Govoner Vaughn to the list.
It is difficult to compare players from different eras, from the 1940s to the 1990s. But basketball is easier than football. There is no doubt in my mind that the great, athletic players of the 1950s and 1960s--Mannie Jackson, Govoner Vaughn, Sweet Charlie Brown, Paxton Lumpkin, Cazzie Russell, Tommy Hawkins--could make the transition to today's fast-paced style.
But wait. Let's make this exercise a wee bit tougher. Why hoist 20 jerseys during the inaugural induction ceremony? Even the Boston Celtics took a few years to fill the rafters of old Boston Garden. How about only 10 the first time? But which 10?
My choices would be Deron Williams, Phillip, Garris, Kerr, Thomas, Eddleman, Downey, Freeman, Weatherspoon and Anderson.
Now there is more room for debate.