After a promising start at the beginning of Bruce Weber's coaching career at Illinois, the current Kansas State head coach was unable to string together NCAA Tournament runs with his own recruits and had trouble recruiting top in-state players.
Illinois was 26-7 in Weber's first season in Champaign, followed up with a 37-2 record and national championship game appearance in Year 2. Weber and the Fighting Illini were only able to win two NCAA Tournament games over the past seven seasons, leading to Weber's firing this past March.
Weber inherited some great teams after Bill Self left for Kansas, but was never able to win with his own recruits. Sure the Illini caught a few tough breaks along the way, but it shouldn't have been as easy as it was for me to quickly compile a list of 10 players who busted during Weber's tenure.
Smith, a 7'2" player from Florida, had the most four-year impact of any player on this list. Despite his contributions though, he makes the list because of his inability to use his height to his advantage. Smith is the tallest player in Illinois basketball history, but was often found shooting jump shots on the perimeter rather than banging in the paint.
After redshirting in 2000-01, Smith played between 10.1 and 17.4 minutes in each of his four collegiate seasons. After averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds as a junior, Smith's role was taken over by Jack Ingram. Smith, nicknamed "Chainsaw," did not see the court during Illinois' improbable comeback over Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight.
Despite being a likable player and a seemingly good person, Griffey hasn't reached his potential through three seasons in Champaign. Griffey is the lone player on the list who currently suits up for the orange and blue, but needs a big senior season to get his name off this list. Griffey, who chose Illinois over Missouri, averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds as a junior.
Griffey started early in the season, but was benched when Weber decided to go with a four-guard starting lineup in favor of Joseph Bertrand. Like Smith, the 6'8" Griffey would rather step outside than post up. Griffey's role for the 2012-13 Illini squad is still to be determined, although I predict him to be the backup to Sam McLaurin at power forward.
The list continues with another big man, in the 6'10" Semrau. Semrau came to Champaign from Grafton, Ohio, but only ever found himself in the Illinois rotation during his junior season. In fact, Semrau would have been allowed to play another season for Illinois because of a redshirt season early on, but Weber chose to bring in another recruit instead.
Because of injuries, Semrau only appeared in 14 games during his first two seasons. As a redshirt sophomore, Semrau backed up Mike Tisdale at center. Semrau was able to rebound and defend effectively, but lacked the offensive prowess necessary to perform at the Big Ten level. While injuries contributed to Semrau's demise, maybe he lacked the skill needed to be a contributor as well.
Jackson's contributions during his four seasons as a member of the basketball team were even less than Semrau's. Jackson only saw the court 26 times in the three seasons that he suited up and scored 24 points during that time. It should be noted that Jackson missed his junior basketball season in favor of playing on the Illinois football team.
Like the three players before him, Jackson was a big man recruited from out of state. From Buena Vista, Georgia, Jackson stood 6'8" and weighed 265 pounds. Jackson shared a similar role to walk on Bubba Chisholm at Illinois. During the past few seasons, Illinois has not only lacked great big men, but they have also lost out on many top in-state players.
The 6'10" Simpson came from Simeon High School in Chicago, but never lived up to the hype. Simpson only appeared in eight games during his two seasons as an Illini, which included a redshirt freshman season. He only scored four points in 17 minutes in his second season, before taking the junior college route back to D-I basketball.
Simpson now suits up for the Memphis Tigers, where he averaged 1.6 points in 6.9 minutes during the 2011-12 season. There were many rumors surrounding Simpson's release from the Illinois basketball program, but I think his knack for looking lost on the court during the little playing time he saw was more than enough for the two parties to split.
Head, the younger brother of Luther Head, never became the player that his older brother was at Illinois. He scored 32 points during his Fighting Illini career, which ended last December at the end of first semester. Head decided to follow former Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard to SMU, who will soon be a member of the Big East Conference.
The 6'4" Head certainly was an athletic player who could be an elite defender, but his carelessness with the ball and poor jump shot played a part in determining his lack of playing time. Head's best game as an Illini came as a freshman, when he started in favor of Demetri McCamey and played 16 minutes in a loss at Ohio State.
Carlwell, my favorite player on this list, is actually lucky to be alive. He and former Illini player Jamar Smith were a part of a car accident that nearly killed Carlwell, but instead left him with a sever concussion that landed him in the hospital for four days. Smith was the driver of the car in the accident that took place in February of 2007.
The accident took place during Carlwell's freshman season, where Carlwell saw the floor sparingly. He stayed with the program the following season and played three games, before deciding to transfer to San Diego State where he helped the Aztecs reach the NCAA Tournament in a key reserve role. The 6'11" Carlwell had size and athleticism, and it's a shame that his Illini career had to essentially end the way it did.
After the accident with Carlwell, Smith never played another game for Illinois despite being given multiple chances to redeem himself. The 6'3" sharpshooter from Peoria was a part of the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team in 2006. He averaged 8.0 points while shooting 48.2 percent from deep that year, followed up by a 8.1 point average as a sophomore before the accident.
After continuing to break the rules after the accident, Smith and Illinois parted ways in 2008 when Smith transferred to Southern Indiana. Full of talent, Smith recently signed with the Boston Celtics for the upcoming NBA season. If only Smith would have had his head on straight, he would definitely not been a part of this list.
After playing only six games as a freshman at Kentucky, Legion decided to transfer to Illinois where he'd be eligible after sitting out the first semester as a sophomore. During his sophomore year, Legion averaged 3.5 points in 11.1 minutes, but shot an extremely poor 28.9 percent. After 11 games the next season, Legion decided to transfer yet again, although this time to Florida International.
Legion averaged 13.0 points in 10 games as a senior at Florida International, but it's safe to say that this once promising star from Oak Hill Academy was a big time bust. Legion only played 49 collegiate games at three schools, spending more time sitting out waiting to become eligible than he did on the court. Although Legion had some talent, he played way too selfishly as a member of Weber's squad.
Richmond's four-year commitment to Illinois during high school lasted three years longer than he did as an Illinois player. After a mediocre freshman season where Richmond averaged 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, Richmond declared for the NBA Draft but was not selected. Richmond is currently on probation, following multiple charges against him due to an August 2011 incident.
Richmond was a part of FIBA Americas U18 Championship in 2010 and came to Champaign alongside Head and Meyers Leonard. After only two seasons, none of those three players are a part of the Illini program any longer. Richmond's career ended abruptly and from the bench. Following an alleged fight with Brandon Paul at the 2011 Big Ten Tournament, Richmond sat the Illini's two NCAA Tournament contests.