Well, the last week has not been a good one for the Illinois basketball program. More importantly, it has been a terrible time for the young men who make up the team, especially Jamar Smith and Brian Carlwell. What a tragedy. Thankfully, it was not an even worse tragedy. The news report and report from the prosecutor raise more questions than they answer. Without going into specifics, the biggest question of all is this: were other Illini basketball players involved in this incident prior to 911 being called (thankfully) by the two women at 11:40 pm? I'm not sure what the whole "other players were gathered" at the complex meant specifically in the news article. I wonder who the "other person" was that came back down to the car, looked at Carlwell, and then went back inside the complex. That's just inexcusable! And sad.
I can only guess that Jamar Smith was in an alcohol induced blackout state as a result of his apparent binge on beer and tequila. I bet he doesn't remember too much about the night, if he even has a hazy recollection. I mean, he was apparentley 0.174, and this was hours and hours after he had consumed his last drink. Yikes. Yes, he's at fault, but whoever else was partying with them and let him leave to drive a car with a passenger inside it, in the state he was in, can't be considered an innocent bystander either. I'm not talking legally, cause I'm not sure what the legal implications are of that aspect. I'm just talking from a moral perspective. I don't know if other players were partying with them or not. If they were, then that's just a shame. I hope not. But as tempting as it is to do so, I don't want to put a "basketball" spin on this whole thing. Because this is not a basketball tragedy. This is a human tragedy.
I don't blame Bruce Weber for this, but I do think he needs to determine the root cause and attack it from that perspective. Is abuse of alcohol a problem with the team? I don't think we should use the excuse that "every college basketball team uses alcohol, just like every college kid does". We've got to address what is going on at Illinois, and that's it. We shouldn't worry about what other schools are doing or not doing.
Well, maybe getting back on the court Wednesday night against Michigan will begin the slow healing process. I'm not even worried about or thinking ahead to an NCAA tournament birth at this moment in time. I'll think about that later.