Illinois may have fallen into the NIT this season, but the basketball team's value had already risen into the top five among college basketball programs, according to Forbes.


 

Illinois may have fallen into the NIT this season, but the basketball team's value had already risen into the top five among college basketball programs, according to Forbes.


Illinois has an estimated team value of $20.8 million and made a profit of $13.9 million in the fiscal year from July 2008 through June 2009, according to the report. Illinois' profit grew by 9 percent from the previous year, and the Illini were ranked the highest of any team in the Big Ten Conference.


North Carolina led the nation's moneymakers with a team value of $29 million and a profit of $17.7, ahead of Kentucky (26.2, 16.1), Louisville (26.0, 16.9) and Kansas (24.0, 15.2). Illinois jumped two spots from the previous year's list.


Illinois generated $7.2 million in gate receipts and $691,000 in concessions. Donations dropped 2 percent to $4.2 million -- not a bad slide in a recession, according to the report. The Illini kept expenses down with a basketball operating budget of $4.8 million, the second lowest among teams in Forbes' top 20.


In the ranking of college basketball's most valuable teams, Forbes took into account four factors:


-- Value of contribution to the institution for academic purposes, including scholarships for basketball players.


-- The net profit generated by the basketball program retained by the athletic department, often used by non-revenue programs.


-- The value contribute to conference peers via tournament revenue.


-- Estimated direct spending by visitors to the county where home games are played.


BASKETBALL RECRUITING


Illinois coach Bruce Weber attended the NJCAA national tournament Thursday to watch Kaylon Williams, a 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Illini assistant Jay Price returned to watch Friday.


Weber and his staff will keep their eyes open for late point guard options if Illini sophomore Demetri McCamey does the unexpected and decides to forego his final year of eligibility for professional basketball. Iowa had earlier shown interest in Williams, who played his freshman season at Evansville before leaving to be closer to home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 


The Illini were also watching Kiel Turpin, a 6-11, 190-pound freshman from Lincoln College who prepped at Normal West. Turpin is the son of former Kentucky center Melvin Turpin.


WOMEN'S BASKETBALL


Illinois senior center Jenna Smith had 29 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Illini women to a 74-72 overtime victory Monday over Marquette in the second round of the WNIT at Assembly Hall. Illinois (18-14) advanced to play at Missouri State, and the Illini aren't sure if they will get another home game in postseason.


Smith ranks first in school history in points (2,137) and rebounds (1,142).


"Leaving Illinois, I want people to remember me as a hard-working player who never gave up,'' Smith said. "We all refuse to lose. We're in it to win it. We're here with no school, just in the gym all day, getting 100 percent better. It's for the program next year and our last hurrah.''


Senior forward Lacey Simpson had 12 points and eight rebounds.


SOFTBALL


Illinois posted a 4-1 record at the South Florida tournament. The Illini, ranked No. 21, improved to 21-3 before a doubleheader at Loyola on Wednesday and the Big Ten opener at No. 4 Michigan on Saturday. Illinois coach Terri Sullivan remains home during road trips while expecting her first child.


The team is coached on the road by associate head coach Donna DiBiase.


Sophomore first baseman Meredith Hackett earned Big Ten player of the week Monday after going 8-for-16 with a 1.063 slugging percentage in tournament play.


She hit three homers with eight RBIs and five runs.


IN OTHER NEWS


- Illinois senior 184-pounder John Dergo and sophomore 174-pounder Jordan Blanton each placed fifth at the NCAA wrestling meet. Dergo, seeded second, finished with a 26-4 record. Blanton was seeded 10th and finished 25-9.


- Online bidding for men's and women's basketball uniforms worn during the season's "pink'' games is under way at www.fightingillini.com. Portions of the proceeds will benefit the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and Coaches vs. Cancer. Bidding is open for two weeks. Also up for bid is an ESPN GameDay basketball signed by coach Bruce Weber plus ESPN analysts Rece Davis and Jay Bilas.


- Tickets for first- and second-round games in next season's NCAA Tournament, including games at the United Center in Chicago, are on sale at www.ncaa.com/mbbtickets. All-session tickets are $225, plus $18 in fees.


John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.