Thank You

#52      
As fans, we knew the potential this 2020-2021 team had. Our regular season expectations were met, but not before a couple of shockingly cold showers and long six mile walks through the cold January air.

Our team met the challenge of a brain bruising flagrant elbow to the nose, and came out better for it. A more cohesive and balance team emerged that built confidence towards the future.

Despite B1G brothers best efforts, we got to witness the cutting down of nets to secure a banner for the team. Not to mention, the individual banners that will soon adorn the rafters of State Farm Center for our single named stars, Ayo & Kofi.

Though we may mourn our tourney exit for the days and weeks ahead, there is so much to look back on and smile.

Trent and Da'Monte weathered more storms than most in the transfer portal era. Their game's morphed and grew into what the team needed. Trent from the go-to offensive weapon to the on ball defensive wall. Da'Monte has always been, and forever will be, the glue guy of all glue guys. The transformation from pensive offensive liability to being one of the most efficient scorers in the country is a testament to the work put in.

Thank you seniors of this year, and to Kipper, whether good or bad, and Andres for establishing a foundation and culture for the years to come.

As we peer ahead, for some, the orange horizon may be too bright, but these Kool-Aid fueled veins wouldn't have it any other way. We have our own human highlight reel, a Peoria Illini projected to make quite the leap, a veteran frontcourt that competes with most. The Illini have the roster to remain relevant within the Big Ten and the national scene. Maybe, just maybe, we will be treated to a junior's unfinished business and complete the run to a Championship?

Ayo will forever live in Illini lore as one of, if not the greatest, closer in our storied history. Him coming back for his junior season will have long lasting impacts to show recruits we can develop talent and win games. His leadership and desire to make Illinois Illinois again was the keystone to keep the team together and to be built around.

The foundation has been laid, the walls erected, we hit a bit of a delay on the roof, but we are right on pace. We aren't skipping steps in our resurrection. The wood will continue to be chopped everyday. Guys, here is to the new Fighting Illini.
 
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#53      
BU:1 Trash cans:0
Chicago
I will always remember this team. What hurts the most for me is that, aside from our fans and some diehard B1G fans, no one else will. For everyone else, this team will probably end up being nothing more than a footnote in the unfolding story of Loyola's second miracle run in a four year span. And that sucks. This team deserves to be remembered by more people (to the extent you can even deserve to take up space in other people's memory banks). This team was special. They were all heart. And they played the game the right way. But, in the end, it wasn't enough. They ran into an opponent they couldn't figure out or get around.

The truth is that in addition to there only being one national champion, there are also only a few stories that have a chance to survive and be told far into the future. When a team wins, they stay in the runnings for their story to be remembered. And the team that loses has their story cut short. Time runs out. The battery on the megaphone dies. The conch shell is snatched away. I wasn't ready for the story to end. I wanted to keep listening. And I wanted others to have the opportunity to hear it as well.

But it simply wasn't meant to be.
 
#54      
It wasn't that long ago I remember wondering why we didn't have guards that could drive and create their own shots. Why we didn't have a team that crashed the boards. Why we seemed to never get any alley-oop dunks. Why we always seemed to struggle with fast breaks. And why it seemed our players didn't play with any joy by the end of the season. Those issues are a thing of the past now that we have a good coach who has changed the culture. We have a program that is exciting and getting better each year. Thank you to the players we've had the past 4 years, and thank you to the coaching staff. You guys did a tremendous job turning this thing around. I can't wait to see what you have in store for us next year. Go ILLINI!!!
 
#55      
This was a special group of players that were a true joy to watch.

They brought the program back to prominence and laid a strong foundation for the future. Sad the season is over, but this was a great year for Illinois hoops!

GO ILLINI!!
 
#56      
Stylin' and Profilin'
Absolutely - especially this year was great. Thanks to the players and staff.
 
#57      
Great Big Thank You(s), for...

You Illini Beloveds got to actually settle things out on the court where it belongs. No Covid cancellations or the like to snuff out your shot at The Dream. You got your chance and that’s all anyone can ask.

Trent, for fearlessly venturing out of nice warm Florida and staying with your Illini commitment and jumpstarting the long Illini road back to turning the program blood Blue again.

Da'Monte, for doing whatever it takes to win. And making your father proud. And us, too.

Coach Underwood, for making the Illini job your dream job and giving it the respect it is always due. For caring so much about your players and passionate Illini fanatics.

Josh Whitman, for hiring Coach Underwood. And having a vision for the future. “Without vision, the people perish...”, the saying goes.

To all you guys who hang out in city gyms and all those Caribbean ports who find these roundball savants and lure them to the Prairie State.

Ayo. You did more than become a great baller and closer. You put the Illini back on the National map and made the Illini cool again just like you said you would. And for being an even better human being. So young, yet so mature and such a fantastic role model. Need more in this world like you.

Kofi. For being Mister Court Presence and flashing your Jamaican sunshine smile so freely. And all those fun monster slams.

Mr. Illinois Basketball, for your sweet righteous corner threes and giving us flashes of your unlimited potential. And for keeping the Peoria Pipeline flowing richly.

To all of Illini Nation that’s hurting right now. Feeling the sting means you care. Feeling the pain means that when the Big Trophy comes... it will taste even sweeter. And for knowing that just one Illini National Title is worth more than 150 UCLA and North Carolina national trophies combined.

To everyone involved in any way with the Fighting Illini basketball family. For winning with class. For losing with class. For knowing that how you play the game and how you carry yourself is more important than the outcome of any contest. Or season.

To E. J. Liddell. We’re sorry you didn’t choose The Beloved but you represent Downstate ballers proud. And for having more class than some folks who hide behind keyboards and spew out garbage instead of taking a good long look at themselves in the mirror and wondering how they turned out that ugly way.

To the State of Illinois... the greatest roundball State in the Universe. Despite all the challenges and problems, you keep turning out great ball players and the best fans in the World. And speaking of fans,

To all of Illini Nation... the most knowledgeable and passionate fan base in the Universe.

Winning with class, losing with class. Living the dream. Turning the World Orange and Blue, one day at a time.

(And Thank You to all those who took the time to read such a long post...)
 
#58      
Orange Krush Class of 2013
Rochester, MN
I will echo the thanks of many others. Still feeling pretty low after yesterday, but I'm sure it's nothing compared to how the team feels. Looking past that, it was a really really fun year for so many reasons. Not least of those was a new person in my life (we started dating about a month before last year's tourney was cancelled) who went from zero interest in basketball to a huge Illini fan. That wasn't just because this team won, but because of how fun they were to watch: they played fun basketball, they had fun on the sidelines, and you just couldn't help but have a smile on your face for a lot of the past few months. As with every year's Illini, good great or bad, I'll always be grateful for this team!
 
#59      
This hurts so bad right now, I'm sure it's worse for the team. I was certain that this was a team of destiny, but I will be forever thankful for these young men for helping me through the pandemic and my personal issues that I've gone through this year.

Great run guys! Thank you so much for all your efforts this season (and the seasons leading up to this one) and congratulations to the B1G Champs 2020-2021!!:shield:
 
#61      
Anyone know of anywhere I can order a schedule poster from this years team? The ones that are available at the beginning of each season. Thanks in advance!
 
#62      
Anyone know of anywhere I can order a schedule poster from this years team? The ones that are available at the beginning of each season. Thanks in advance!
$10

or
$3
 
#63      
st petersburg, fl
a few years ago, I believe it was at the end of the 2015/2016 season when we only had 15 wins, i posted here on IL (unfortunately can't find the exact post as the search doesn't go back that far). It was a dark time to be an illini fan. Essentially all I said was, as long as we're not cheating and we're playing with character, I will always be cheering for the Illini. i've moved a lot pre- and post-college and never really bonded with a pro sports team because of that (except perhaps the 90s Bulls for obvious reasons). Illini were the one team (or teams - cuz i cheer for them across the board) where I have a genuine connection).

Things continued to be challenging for a couple of more years. But, because of the 2019-2021 basketball teams, those dark days seem like a long time ago. Thank you to the players, coaches, administrative staff, and everyone involved for putting in the work and effort to make us fans look forward to Illinois sports again. Even if it seems like the end of the journey hasn't been exactly where we were hoping, I prefer to see it as the journey just beginning. And no journey comes without stumbles.

And thank you to the loyalty members over the years as we've stuck together until we could get to a better place. I don't blame anyone for giving up on illini sports for the past 15 odd years (and I know many that have). But those in this community that have stuck through this have done admirably supporting one another, and I'm thankful for that.
 
#64      
$10

or
$3
Appreciate it! It's not letting me add the first $10 one to my cart for some reason, but I was able to get the other one.
 
#65      
I would just like to add a thanks to those of you who regularly take part in these lively discussions. It was a big part of what made this season so enjoyable for me. Having an outlet to interact with other zealots like me makes it that much more fun. I know the conversation never exactly "ends", but yesterday felt an awful lot like something special ended.

I suppose only one team goes home happy. Once again, it wasn't our turn.

I'm a lifelong Cubs fan as well, so this feeling is one I'm all too familiar with. As we Cubs fans have always said. "Wait till next year." I said it a lot of times before next year actually came, but it did. I believe it will come for Illini basketball soon enough.

Recruiting is about to get wild, so we will lick our wounds and gear up for another offseason. Talk to you all soon.
 
#66      
For me, this feels like the 1984 Rose Bowl all over again. But in that situation I soon was able to appreciate that team’s greatness. I am coming to that same appreciation for this team now.
 
#67      
Rockford, Illinois
After watching the way MSU players ended their season with Izzo, I am forever grateful for Coach Underwood’s program’s emphasis on family, culture, and teamwork.

After watching how well Ayo handled his final press conference as an Illini, I realize how I am really grateful that he came back, that he has mentored the freshman so well on how to act with dignity and class and how hard work pays off, (even literally pushing Andre to hold his head high), that he represented Illinois so well, both on and off the court, that he achieved his honored banner playing as a First-Team All-American, and that he led Illinois Basketball back to relevance and prominence.

After watching Trent and DaMonte (under the tough act of following his legendary father) walk off the court in tears in their last game of this season and maybe their tenures as Illini, I am truly grateful for their loyalty in maintaining their commitments, their leadership, their hard work becoming two of the best defenders in the B1G, and finally, their perseverance sticking with the program through thick and thin, establishing the foundation for the future.

After watching the strength of the bond between Kofi and Giorgi demonstrated all season, but especially in their post-game presser, I am grateful for the emphasis on the amazing brotherhood that is Illini Basketball.

After watching the freshmen Adam and Andre grow into becoming essential pieces of the Number 2 ranked team in college basketball, I am grateful that they now realize how special this program is, how they have to continue to work hard to improve, and I look forward to them playing a significant role in the Illini’s future success.

After watching (and hearing in person the last two games), I am grateful for the bench mob, every single coach, and the support staff for how hard they worked and all they did to help make this a season to remember.

After watching the team locker room celebrations after victories and winning the B1G Tourney, I am grateful for the pure joy and happiness this team brought to Illini Nation at such a scary and sad time this past few months.

After watching how poorly OSU fans treated EJ Liddell, I am grateful for the real Illini Nation, especially Dan and his platform for those on Illinois Loyalty who have stayed positive, classy, and loyal through the adversity of this difficult year and the many years of irrelevance.

Thank you, all.
:chief: :illinois::chief:
 
#69      
Not the ending we wanted, but these kids gave us a lot of fun and great moments throughout the season. One bad game (even an ill-timed one) doesn't undo all of that IMO. They improved with each and every game and showed us how fun Illinois basketball used to be. Brad Underwood and his staff has made Illinois basketball relevant again, and I'm confident it will stay that way post Ayo/Kofi. I firmly believe the program is in capable hands.

This isn't the end. It's only the beginning. Let's get back to the days of making the tourney every year. You gotta get in to have a shot after all. We have to catch lightning in a bottle one of these years

Thank you to Coach Underwood, his staff and to these young men for bringing some joy to the extremely depressing times we are currently living in.
 
#70      
I posted this in the post-game thread, thought I would add it here too.

"I just want to thank Ayo, Trent, Damonte and Adam for choosing their home state school. You guys made us proud and represent yourselves well. For those leaving next year, I wish you all the best in your careers. I-L-L!"
Trent is from Florida.
 
#71      
I've been an illini fan all 32 years of my life. When I think about how far these guys have come in 4 years I can't help but smile. I love these guys and I'm disappointed for them that they didn't get to see how much illini nation loves them. These are our Unforgettables. I know they weren't here this year but I also hope we remember Andres and Kipper for they too helped lay this foundation.

Thank you
 
#72      
I am so grateful for this team. I wish they could stay forever. You just have to follow their careers and be so proud. I love the way Ayo glorifies God. How refreshing. I'm sad that it ended this way but I'm happy for their futures.
 
#73      
I've been watching Illinois games since the late 70s and this is probably my favorite team ever. The tournament is cruel by design and most every team has a harsh ending to their season, but I wouldn't take any of it back. Hope the kids on the team feel the same way.
 
#74      
This team is such a testament to the turn around the Brad has brought to the program. They were so fun to watch and there was no drama ever. Just great basketball. Even with the early exit still the best team we've had in a LONG time.
 
#75      
I want to thank this team for making Illinois Basketball relevant again. I have felt things about my home town team I haven’t felt in over ten years. Old friendships were rekindled.

I believe we will see BU evolve and learn. I believe we will see Illinois remain a Top 20 destination team. I believe BU has a Final Four run in his Illinois career. And maybe a national title.

I haven’t felt this optimistic in years. We took one on the chin Sunday but we are nationally relevant again. That feeling is to me indescribably good.