Phil Pash's Simply Sports: Brown's broken ankle sign to return to Illinois?

Fate? A sign Dee Brown should return to Illinois for his senior year?

Brown, Illinois’ “One-Man Fastbreak,” broke his right foot June 8 at the NBA predraft camp at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute and might withdraw from the June 28 draft. He is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks.

Brown declared for the NBA draft last month, but did not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to Illinois for his senior year. The injury leaves him to consider withdrawing from the draft.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber heard the news while on vacation in Mexico and issued this statement: “Obviously, I’m disappointed, one because Dee is injured, and two because this affects something that is very important to Dee. What we are focusing on now is for Dee to have successful surgery and begin successful rehabilitation. After that, then we can talk about where we go from here.”

Brown, Big Ten Player of the Year, was to have surgery and is expected to be on crutches 4-6 weeks.

Illinois’ Roger Powell Jr. also was injured at the camp, spraining his right ankle and leaving on crutches. He missed the remainder of the camp (Rockford Lightning head coach Chris Daleo was to attend the camp, along with many others).

Meanwhile, Illini recruiting target, North Carolina prep Brandon Rush, stated he’s confident of his NBA draft status, reported the Peoria Journal Star. Rush did discuss the possibility of withdrawing from the draft, though.

“I am leaning towards Oklahoma,” he said. “It’s down to Oklahoma and Illinois. But Oklahoma is my favorite right now.”

A big surprise—Mike Winters, who coached Rockford Jefferson to fourth place in the Class AA state basketball tournament in March, resigned June 9 to take the head coaching job at Rock Falls, reported the local daily.

Winters coached Jefferson two seasons and led the J-Hawks to their first NIC-9 title in 2004 and their first state tournament appearance this past season. He takes over a Rock Falls program that has won seven regional and six sectional titles since 1998 in Class A. The Rockets will be a Class AA team in 2005-2006.

“People are asking me why I’d leave Jefferson to take a job at a smaller school, but there are a million reasons why,” Winters said. “The biggest thing is the tradition. It’s difficult to put tradition into a program, and it’s already established at Rock Falls.

“This is really a dream job for a coach. I’m going to take over a team where the gym is sold out every game, and the community is behind you.”

A 1992 Jefferson graduate, Winters was an assistant coach at Jefferson for seven years before taking his first head coaching job at Oregon in 2001. He led the Hawks to a 39-18 record and one regional title.

Winters took over a talented Jefferson team in 2003. The J-Hawks shared the conference crown with Rockton Hononegah his first season (20-7, 13-3 NIC-9) and finished fourth in the state in 2004-05 (23-10, 12-4). There were six underclassmen on last season’s team, including NIC-9 MVP Robert Eppinger and all-conference guard Branden Fisher.

“It was a very tough call,” Winters said. “I’m walking away from possibly two Division I players, and they have the potential to be very good again next year. I love the kids at Jefferson, and I’m thankful for all the support everyone gave me last year. It was a very memorable experience.”

Winters said another big reason for leaving Jefferson is that he will be guaranteed a permanent teaching position at Rock Falls High School. At Jefferson, his teaching contract was re-evaluated every year.

“I’m tired of not knowing where I’m going to be teaching every year,” said Winters, whose wife, Nicole, is expecting their first child in July. “I have to think about what’s best for my family and my career also.”

Winters is right about Rock Falls’ tradition. The Rockets have played for the state title twice, winning one (A in 1999 while going 30-3 under coach Thom Sigel) and losing one. The loss was in 1958 in a memorable setting.

With players like Gary Kolb, Ken Siebel, Jim Cain and Paul Gallentine, the Rockets finished 33-2, losing the title game to unbeaten (31-0) Chicago Marshall and George Wilson 70-64. It was the first time a Chicago Public League school won state, and Marshall’s coach, Isadore “Spin” Salario, would win again in 1960.

Dick Haselton directed the Rockets; he later would coach at Rockford East.

The 58th annual Wisconsin high school baseball state championships started June 14 at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute. That’s the same stadium where the recent NCAA Division III World Series was played, won by UW-Whitewater.

A couple of Wisconsin prep teams also got to play games in Milwaukee’s Miller Park this spring when the Brewers were on the road. That’s got to be pretty neat for preps, getting to play games in bigger facilities than they usually do.

The WIAA Division 1 field is interesting in that three of the eight teams in the quarterfinals were from the Big Eight Conference, made up of Madison-area schools, Janesville and Beloit. They were Madison Memorial (16-7), Middleton (17-7) and top-ranked Sun Prairie (23-0).

All three Big Eight teams are former state champs—Middleton in 2003, Madison Memorial in 1992 and 1990, and Sun Prairie in 1997, 1994 and 1974.

One of Big Eight champ Sun Prairie’s top players is Illinois recruit Kevyn Feiner, who was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 18th round of the baseball draft June 7. He was the 542nd player taken.

From the June 15-21, 2005, issue

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