All-Century Team Added to Honored Jerseys Criteria
Sept. 8, 2008
Champaign, Ill. - The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced today that 10 additional Fighting Illini basketball legends will be recognized by having their jerseys permanently displayed at Assembly Hall. Selection to the Illinois Basketball All-Century Team has joined the list of criteria, meaning Illinois greats Gene Vance, Dave Downey, Skip Thoren, Don Freeman, Nick Weatherspoon, Eddie Johnson, Derek Harper, Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle and Deon Thomas will have their jerseys unveiled for the first time on Saturday at A Night of Legends alumni basketball game, scheduled for 7 p.m.
Tickets for Saturday's alumni game are $15 each and are on sale online or through the UI Athletics Ticket Office by phone at 217-333-3470 or 1-866-ILLINI-1, or in person at the Assembly Hall North Box Office.
"We had planned to begin the honored jerseys with a class of players that met certain criteria, and then welcome other outstanding players in future years. But after considerable review and the positive feedback we have received from the first group that received the honor, we have decided to include these additional former players to the first class," Director of Athletics Ron Guenther said. "We feel that having all 30 players unveiled together in an inaugural class is the most fitting way to permanently honor their achievements."
"I am pleased that the All-Century Team criteria has been factored in so that these 10 very deserving players will now be included in the first group of honored jerseys at the Assembly Hall," Head Coach Bruce Weber said. "This also will heighten the anticipation for Saturday's ceremony following the alumni game. Seeing the banners raised of these 30 all-time greats who have meant so much to the storied tradition of Illinois Basketball will be a thrilling moment for everyone in attendance that evening."
Vance was a starter on the Whiz Kids teams that won Big Ten championships in 1942 and 1943. He twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was a three-time honorable mention All-American. Vance went on to play five seasons in the NBA and later served as Illinois' Director of Athletics from 1967-72.
Downey earned All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1963, helping lead Illinois to a Big Ten title. He still owns the Illini single-game scoring record with his 53-point performance at Indiana on Feb. 16, 1963. Downey also was Illinois' recipient of the 1963 Big Ten Medal of Honor. He was a three-year team MVP and finished his tenure as the UI's career scoring leader with 1,360 points (now ranks 18th).
Thoren was an All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 1965, averaging 22.2 points and a school-record 14.5 rebounds. Thoren set the UI single-game rebounding mark with 24 boards at UCLA on Dec. 28, 1963, and recorded the most boards of any player in Illini history over a three-year period with 830. The two-time team MVP went on to play three seasons in the ABA.
Freeman earned All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1966. He set the Illinois single-season scoring record of 668 points, a remarkable 27.8 points per game average, which still stands today. Freeman ended his UI career as the school's all-time scoring leader with 1,449 points (now ranks 12th). He went on to enjoy a nine-year professional career.
Weatherspoon was an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1973. A two-time team MVP, he holds the highest averages in school history for career points (20.9 ppg) and career rebounds (11.4 rpg). Weatherspoon left Illinois as the school's career scoring leader with 1,481 points (now ranks 10th). He then played seven years in the NBA.
Johnson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior in 1981. He was a two-time team MVP and finished his career as Illinois' all-time scoring leader with 1,692 points (now ranks sixth) and all-time leading rebounder with 831 boards (now ranks fourth). Johnson went on to score more than 19,000 points during a 17-year NBA career.
Harper was an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1983. He led the Illini in scoring with an average of 15.4 points en route to team MVP honors. Harper left Illinois following his junior season and was a first-round NBA draft pick. He scored more than 16,000 points during a 16-year pro career.
Anderson was a two-time honorable mention All-American, All-Big Ten pick and team MVP in 1988 and 1989. A member of the Flyin' Illini that led Illinois to the 1989 NCAA Final Four, Anderson was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. He ranks 28th on the Illinois all-time scoring list with 1,172 points during his two-year career. Anderson was an early entrant into the NBA Draft and was selected in the lottery. He enjoyed a 13-year professional career, scoring more than 11,000 points.
Battle was a two-time honorable mention All-American and All-Big Ten selection in 1988 and 1989. Another member of the Flyin' Illini that helped lead Illinois to the 1989 Final Four, Battle earned All-Midwest Regional honors. He stands 35th on the UI scoring chart with 1,112 points during his two seasons in Champaign. Former Illinois coach Lou Henson named an annual team award the Kenny Battle Award to honor Battle's relentless hustle and hard work in practice and games. A first-round draft pick, he played four seasons in the NBA.
Thomas was a four-time All-Big Ten selection from 1991-94 and three-time team MVP. He is the Illinois all-time scoring leader with 2,129 points and ranks third on the UI career rebounding list with 846 boards. Thomas also holds the school record for career blocked shots with 177.
These 10 standouts join the previously announced names of Dee Brown, Chuck Carney, Jerry Colangelo, Jim Dawson, Bruce Douglas, Dike Eddleman, Bill Erickson, Kendall Gill, Bill Hapac, Luther Head, Walt Kirk, Ken Norman, Don Sunderlage, Deron Williams and Ray Woods to have their jerseys hung at Assembly Hall. The remaining five players to be honored will be released in the coming days leading up to the reunion game.
Players selected to have their jerseys hung at the Assembly Hall must have achieved one of the following criteria: 1) National Player of the Year; 2) Enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame; 3) U.S. Olympian; 4) Big Ten Player of the Year; 5) Consensus First- or Second-Team All-American; 6) Illinois All-Century Team Member.
Current List of Illinois Men's Basketball Honored Jerseys (25 of 30) Ray Woods 1915-17 G Evanston, Ill. Chuck Carney 1920-22 F Evanston, Ill. Bill Hapac 1938-40 F Chicago, Ill. Gene Vance 1942-43, 47 G Clinton, Ill. Walt Kirk 1944-45, 47 G Mt. Vernon, Ill. Dike Eddleman 1947-49 F Centralia, Ill. Bill Erickson 1947-50 G Rockford, Ill. Don Sunderlage 1949-51 G Elgin, Ill. Jerry Colangelo 1960-62 G Chicago Heights, Ill. Dave Downey 1961-63 F Canton, Ill. Skip Thoren 1963-65 C Rockford, Ill. Don Freeman 1964-66 F Madison, Ill. Jim Dawson 1965-67 G Elmhurst, Ill. Nick Weatherspoon 1971-73 F Canton, Ohio Eddie Johnson 1978-81 F Chicago, Ill. Derek Harper 1981-83 G West Palm Beach, Fla. Bruce Douglas 1983-86 G Quincy, Ill. Ken Norman 1985-87 F Chicago, Ill. Nick Anderson 1988-89 F Chicago, Ill. Kenny Battle 1988-89 F Aurora, Ill. Kendall Gill 1987-90 G Matteson, Ill. Deon Thomas 1991-94 F/C Chicago, Ill. Luther Head 2002-05 G Chicago, Ill. Deron Williams 2003-05 G The Colony, Texas Dee Brown 2003-06 G Maywood, Ill.