Multisport notebook, with items on men’s basketball, football recruiting, and more.
Illinois sophomore center Richard Semrau suffered through a severe chest infection as a freshman, when everyone worried for his health more than his playing time. A knee injury played a role during the basketball season last winter when he logged only 19 minutes as a redshirt freshman.
By the spring, Semrau wondered if he had a place in Illinois' future. Nearly everyone outside the locker room asked the same thing.
"He thought we'd given up on him,'' said Illinois coach Bruce Weber. "Maybe as a coach you learn to talk to kids and explain to them. I told him, 'We haven't given up on you. You've got to prove you're a player. You have to do it starting now.'
"I've asked him many times, 'Are you a player or not?'''
Semrau decided he wanted to be a player. The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder from suburban Cleveland finally put his injuries in the past and made an effort to contribute. In the 82-61 win over Division II Florida Southern on Sunday at Assembly Hall, Semrau finished with seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Heading toward the final exhibition game against Division II Lewis on Sunday (4:30 p.m., no TV), Semrau looked like a workable option at center behind starter Mike Tisdale. That's a big step from the last two seasons.
"I didn't measure up to my expectations,'' Semrau said. "I took two steps back. I hadn't taken that step forward yet. Now I'm definitely recovered. I'm better than the past. I'm ready now. After the last year, I really told myself I need to get into the gym. This is what I have to do. If I don't want to go (to work), I will sit on the bench again.
"I'm more physical, more aggressive, looking to score. Right now, I want it so bad. I never wanted it like this before. I wanted to play. I have to go and do it. It's all in motion now. I want to see how it turns out.''
Semrau gained 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and worked on his game at the Ubben Basketball Complex and back home in Grafton, Ohio, where he worked with Phil Sargento, his coach at Lutheran West High School.
After a modest start in his first five games as a freshman in 2006-07, Semrau suffered a serious infection that required surgery to heal. He lost 45 pounds and didn't return to the court. He was given a medical redshirt.
During his redshirt freshman year, Semrau sprained his medial collateral ligament and sometimes remained home during Illini road trips, leading observers to believe that Semrau's days were numbered. Instead, he gained confidence through hard work.
That's good, Weber said, because there's no magic potion from Dr. Jeff Kyrouac, the team physician.
"Doc Kyrouac has a lot of shots,'' Weber said. "He doesn't have one with confidence. Are you a player? He's taken it and tried to show he's a good enough athlete that he can become a player.''
Chicago Morgan Park defensive end Craig Drummond committed to Illinois, picking the Illini over Wisconsin, Ohio State, Southern Cal and Tennessee. Even though a preseason ankle injury sidelined Drummond all season, interest didn't fall on the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder.
Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 4 strongside defensive end. Scout.com rated him as the No. 13 defensive end. Drummond had 18 sacks as a junior.
Derek Walker and Will Davis, two of Illinois' three starting defensive ends, are seniors this fall.
Illinois (5-4 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten) plays Western Michigan (7-2, 5-1 in the Mid-American) in a non-conference game at Ford Field on Saturday (11 a.m.). The game will be televised by ESPN-regional and shown on WAOE (Peoria, Bloomington), WTVO (Rockford) and WPWR (Chicago). The game will not be televised in the Springfield market.
Illinois' game against Ohio State on Nov. 15 was set for an 11 a.m. kickoff. The game will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2, but a decision likely won't come until after Saturday's games.
In other news
Ranked No. 1 by Golfstat and No. 4 by the Gold Week coaches poll, Illinois placed 11th last week in the 18-team Isleworth Invitational that included 13 ranked teams. Sophomore Scott Langley finished 12th at 3-over par.
Illinois libero Ashley Edinger earned defensive player of the week for the second consecutive week after breaking the school record for digs with 1,442. The Illinois volleyball team moved to No. 16 in the national rankings after defeating No. 18 Michigan and Ohio State.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.