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Old 09-25-2006, 04:54 PM   #54
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"From Smoke to Wild Fire"
I am going to completely turn the page now to talk about a subject I have avoided over the last four to five months. If you know me or have talked to me over that time you would know I have barely blinked an eye in regards to the Eric Gordon recruitment. Even though there was certainly some smoke, I had to believe that EJ was going to stay true to his commitment and still sign with the Illini in November.

We are less than a month and a half from signing day and that calm feeling is gone. That feeling has been replaced with a sense of panic and a sense of ‘Can this really happen?’. At this moment, I truly believe Eric Gordon is going to sign with the Indiana Hoosiers in early November.

I don’t have any inside information. I haven’t spoken to anyone in the DIA and I certainly haven’t spoken to anyone who is close to our coaching staff or the Eric Gordon camp. For me it’s as simple as reading the writing on the wall and to be completely honest the writing has probably been there for some time.

You have to believe if Eric Gordon was coming to Illinois that he would have ended all of this speculation by coming out weeks ago (if not months ago) stating, “I am going to Illinois and I have told Indiana to stop contacting me.”

You also have to believe that our staff asked Eric Gordon to visit this upcoming weekend, because Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams were going to be on campus (not to mention his future back court mate in Demetri McCamey). What did Eric Gordon say when they asked him to visit this weekend? If he said he was busy it was because he was going to be busy visiting Indiana.

Last week we heard Eric Gordon Sr. say that the visit to Illinois was going to be Gordon’s last recruitment trip and that they would release a statement during the week. Well all week I waited and waited and waited for that statement. And shame on me for thinking that the statement never came. It did. He is visiting Indiana this weekend.

I hope, I dream and I pray that I am wrong. Hopefully in a few columns from now I will have egg all over face and all of you can say I was just being the typical cynical Illini fan. Believe me, I want that to be the case.

Losing Eric Gordon would be an absolutely devastating blow to the Illini basketball program and it’s hard to assess just how damaging it could be—both on and off the court. Whenever fans across the country or a sector of Illinois fans bring up Weber’s recruiting it’s easy just to bring up Eric Gordon. Illinois has had a lot of coaches over the years and not one of them have gone into another state and brought in the top player of the country. If Coach Weber and his staff can keep EJ, they did just that and it shows that they have the ability to bring in that caliber of player.

And that brings me to another point. If Coach Weber and his staff lose EJ, I think the Illini fans have every right to be upset, to be frustrated and to criticize the staff. On one hand, it’s certainly easy to see why they could have lost out (I mean Kelvin Samson did hire basically half his family and every coach he has ever had) but there comes a time where you just have to overcome that and get the kid. This is certainly one of those times.

On that same note if Eric Gordon ends up signing with Illinois, Coach Weber and his staff should be lauded for getting one of—if not the—best player in the country and for holding their ground in a very difficult recruiting battle. You can’t be ready to kill Coach Weber and the staff if they lose him if you aren’t ready to praise the staff to the high heavens if they get EJ’s signature on the dotted line.

The situation has gone quickly from a little smoke to a large wild fire and I certainly hope Coach Weber has the hose out, Coach Price is flying over in aplane dropping water and Coach Webster and Coach McClain are loading up the fire truck. This is a situation and a fire they absolutely need to put out.

Not looking good...
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