PMP 2024: Honored Jerseys

PMP 2024: Honored Jerseys

On to the next question on this list. And, since this fundraiser was in May, I should start out by noting that this question was asked before it was announced that Terrence Shannon's jersey would be honored despite him not meeting the qualifications (specifically, 1st or 2nd team All American).

The question:

What additional jersey(s) would hang at SFC if it were up to you, and why.
~John S

We should probably start with the list of jerseys. And, since some people apparently don't know this (there was a lot of "does that mean no one can wear #0 again?" chatter after it was announced that Shannon's jersey would go up there), these are not "retired jerseys." Football has only retired two numbers (Grange and Butkus) and basketball hasn't retired any. If you meet a certain set of qualifications, your jersey goes up with the others. Those qualifications (from this website):

1) National Player of the Year
2) Enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame
3) Big Ten Player of the Year
4) Consensus First- or Second-Team All-American
5) Illinois All-Century Team Member
6) Individual whose pioneering efforts made a significant impact on Illinois and international basketball

There are currently 35 jerseys/names up there. Terrence Shannon will be #36 (Josh Whitman announced that his jersey would go up because "outside circumstances" prevented him from being 1st or 2nd team All American this year - had he been found not guilty in January, he would have been a certain 1st Team All American). Here's the full list of players and the years they played:

#1 Ray Woods (1915~1917)
#1 Chuck Carney (1920~1922)
#19 Bill Hapac (1938~1940)
#47 Andy Phillip (1942, 1943, & 1947)
#25 Gene Vance (1942, 1943, & 1947)
#14 Walt Kirk (1944, 1945, & 1947)
#40 Dike Eddleman (1947~1949)
#33 Bill Erickson (1947~1950)
#11 Don Sunderlage (1949~1951)
#37 Rod Fletcher (1950~1952)
#22 Johnny "Red" Kerr (1952~1954)
#35 Govoner Vaughn (1958~1960)
#30 Mannie Jackson (1958~1960)
#23 Jerry Colangelo (1960~1962)
#40 Dave Downey (1961~1963)
#35 Duane "Skip" Thoren (1963~1965)
#12 Tal Brody (1963~1965)
#15 Don Freeman (1964~1966)
#24 Jim Dawson (1965~1967)
#12 Nick Weatherspoon (1971~1973)
#33 Eddie Johnson (1978~1981)
#12 Derek Harper (1981~1983)
#25 Bruce Douglas (1983~1986)
#33 Ken Norman (1985~1987)
#33 Kenny Battle (1988~1989)
#25 Nick Anderson (1988~1989)
#13 Kendall Gill (1987~1990)
#25 Deon Thomas (1991~1994)
#30 Frank Williams (2000~2002)
#34 Brian Cook (2000~2003)
#4 Luther Head (2002~2005)
#5 Deron Williams (2003~2005)
#11 Dee Brown (2003~2006)
#11 Ayo Dosunmu (2019~2021)
#21 Kofi Cockburn (2020~2022)
#0 Terrence Shannon Jr. (2023~2024)

I was born in December of 1972 so I'm not going to count the three months where I was alive for Nick Weatherspoon's final season and say that there have been 16 honored jerseys in my lifetime. And, unsurprisingly, they came in three phases:

1978 to 1994: 8
2000 to 2006: 5
2020 to present: 3

That checks out. The only player to be honored from the 1990's was Deon Thomas (our all-time leading scorer). So every other player was concentrated in the 80's, the early 2000's, or the last five seasons. Check, check, and check.

My first thought is that maybe there's a player in one of those dips – the 1990's or 2007 to 2019 – that might deserve an honored jersey. I can't speak to whether there was a player in the 1950's who missed out on an honored jersey, but I can speak to the 90's and 2007~2019.

And my first thought is beyond obvious: Kiwane Garris. It seems strange that our second-leading scorer all time does not have his jersey up there. Yes, Bruce Pearl damaged Deon Thomas' legacy, but the Pearl sanctions that sent the program into a tailspin prevented Kiwane from playing on great teams (and gaining the honors necessary to make this list).

But I believe it was another cheater who prevented Kiwane from qualifying for an honored jersey: Clem Haskins at Minnesota. Before Minnesota's 1997 season was wiped from the record books because of Haskins' blatant cheating, Minnesota won the Big Ten title (by four games). They also made the Final Four, but all of that has been vacated because Haskins personally paid someone to write papers for his players (like, it was proven that he paid her himself). Coach, maybe don't put "to do my players' homework" in the memo line of the check next time. (He didn't really do that - but he may as well have.)

Minnesota's best player, Bobby Jackson, was named Big Ten Player of the Year in 1997. But he only averaged 15.3 points and 4.0 assists that season. Another player who was 1st Team All Big Ten, this guy named Kiwane Garris of Illinois, averaged 19.4 points per game and 5.6 assists per game in 1997. My stance: Minnesota's records have all been expunged from that time period, and if Minnesota didn't exist for those four seasons, Kiwane Garris would have been Big Ten Player of the Year in 1997 and would currently have his jersey hung in the ring of honor.

The defense rests its case, your honor.

When looking at the other rosters during that time period, I don't see any other obvious players who should have had their jerseys hung in the rafters. My emotions draw me to Trent Frazier and Malcolm Hill, but I can understand the argument that players who were never even 1st-team All Conference should be precluded from the honored jersey list.

Maybe that's a way to look at this. Kiwane was 1st Team All Big Ten, and Big Ten Player of the Year gets your jersey hung, so who were the other 1st Team All Big Ten players since 1980 who were close to that honor (they ranked 2nd through 5th in the conference that year and just needed to be 1st to qualify). The list of 1st-teamers who don't have an honored jersey from 1980 to 2024 (and I'm requiring them to be listed on both 1st-team lists; used to be AP and UPI, but now it's Coaches and Media):

1997 - Kiwane Garris
1998 - Kevin Turner
2010 - Demetri McCamey

Uh, holy crap, right? I figured I'd look that up and find ten guys who were consensus 1st Team All Big Ten but didn't have their jerseys hung. But every time I got to one, they were already on the honored jersey list. Many of them qualifying because they were on the All Century Team.

And it wasn't the "consensus" thing, either. The only two players who were 1st team All Big Ten on one list and 2nd team on the other list were Efrem Winters in 1984 (1st team UPI, 2nd team AP) and James Augustine in 2006 (1st team Coaches, 2nd team Media). Also, I guess I forgot that we went from 2010 (McCamey) to 2020 (Ayo) without a single player voted to the 1st team. Insane.

So I think I have my answer? I think it's just Kiwane Garris and no one else. If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pick three more I'd say Efrem Winters, Malcolm Hill, and Trent Frazier, but the great thing about what is essentially the Hall Of Fame debate is that there are always players filling the (yes, they were awesome, but this is the Hall Of Fame) slot.

My answer is Kiwane Garris. Two time 1st-Team All Big Ten. 2nd leading scorer in Illini history. Honorable mention All American. And Leisure Studies major (now Recreation, Sport, and Tourism), which was my minor, so I had like seven classes with him and he once asked me for a pencil by saying my name so I'm pretty sure he was my college BFF.

OK so now I'm picturing him actually getting his jersey honored, and when he goes to raise the jersey he grabs the mic and says "you know who should really pull this rope? It's my best friend from college, the guy who handed me a pencil one time when I guessed his name right - COME ON OVER HERE, ROBERT" and then I go out there and unveil the jersey for him while he whispers to his wife "that's not the guy I was thinking of" but I don't care because the crowd is chanting "T-Bond T-Bond" at me and I think "wow they made up a nickname for me and I think I love it" but I don't realize that they're actually chanting "Ki-wahn Ki-wahn."

Somebody make this happen.