It's been a busy summer for the billings department of whichever law firm represents the University of Illinois. First came the lawsuit alleging that when former soccer player Casey Conine received a concussion in 2013, it was the training staff that suffered memory loss, promptly forgetting that the concussion had ever happened and subjecting Conine to repeated cranial traumas within practices and games.
Former Illini offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic hasn't yet filed suit, but he's making the kind of noise on Twitter that'll have the lawyers doubling their orders for manilla folders.
Why don't my medical records match what happened in meetings with doctors?— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
My knee had a tear in the meniscus. Takes 6 months to heel if repaired. Ask @drose Instead I was told it was no big deal. Back in two weeks— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
8months later I found out my meniscus is almost completely gone. No MRI's no surgery pictures for 8months— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I'm not the only horror story of abuse and misuse of power by @coachbeckman— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Yet, stories of medical malfeasance hardly raise the eyebrows of a modern sports fan. Well look alive, all you cynics: reports about coach Matt Bollant will have the most jaded jaws on the floor.
Seven former basketball players are suing Illinois for racist, sexist, and generally discriminatory behavior, including referring to black players as "crabs," calling them "undisciplined" and "unintelligent," and allegedly holding segregated practices, which have been unlawful for longer than women have had the right to attend practices. Oh, and because it's Illinois, coach Bollant is accused of ignoring injuries, too.
The $10 Million dollar lawsuit is being internally investigated by the university and making its slow way through the courts. We'll see if coach Bollant is still the coach this year, and whether Illinois can put the summer of scandal behind them.
The View From The Court
Even without the lawsuit, Illinois is in trouble. As I already pointed out over at the Way Too Early Power Rankings, the Fighting Illini graduated their best player, and they weren't particularly good while she was around. When Ivory Crawford played, their conference record was 6 - 7; when she didn't, they were 0 - 6.
Stats and records, as always, are courtesy of WBBState.com.
The Likely 2015-16 Starting Five
There was one young bright spot last year, and that was 6'-3" Chatrice White, who as a freshman averaged 14.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game. White is a two-way terror, a difference maker in every phase of the game. She represents the Fighting Illini's best hopes for internal development.
Rising senior Kyley Simmons ought to keep her starting spot, and the biggest question surrounding her is, will anyone pass her the ball? She shot fairly well last year, especially from deep, but her extremely low 13% usage rate means she was about as involved in the Illini offense as I was.
Beyond those two, who knows who's starting? Jacqui Grant and Amarah Coleman were flawed players, but they played a role in the rotation, and they're gone, both transferred to DePaul. The Illini will be counting on their freshmen.
The Incoming Freshman Class
4-Star recruit Cierra Rice was her sport's Player of the Year for the state of Michigan, according to the beverage company Gatorade. I'm not familiar with Gatorade's record as a scout, and so I will defer to a source who does not come in shades ranging from electric paint to radioactive urine, at least so far as I know, Dan Olson of ESPN's Hoop Gurlz.
According to Olson, Rice was the 61st-best high school prospect in the country, the 19th best point guard, and the second best player from the state of Michigan, behind only Iowa Hawkeye's commit Tonia Davis. Joining Rice will be two 3-Star recruits, 5'-7" point guard Jaelyne Kirkpatrick and 6'-1" wing Alex Wittinger.
So: a couple of interesting recruits, a great post player, and not a lot of depth. Best case scenario: Chatrice White takes a big leap forward, becoming one of the best bigs in the country and carrying Illinois to a .500 conference record. Worst case scenario... is that the allegations are all proved true, Illinois gets slapped with sanctions, and after failing to win more than two conference games, Chatrice White transfers. To paraphrase an old saying, if it wasn't for bad news, Illinois wouldn't be making any news at all.
Obviously, the allegations are going to be a weight over the program for the foreseeable future, but there is some talent on the court and certainly enough to knock off some wins, especially if the allegations are ultimately determined to be false, and the team can focus on the games at hand.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Amarah Coleman and Jaqui Grant transferred in the offseason.