Tuesday night marks the final home game in the careers of fifth-year seniors Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey. Each has experienced his own ups and downs throughout the last five years in college basketball. Bertrand battled back from injury as a true freshman, a coaching change two years ago and prolonged stretches of losing each of the last three seasons. Ekey dealt with a coaching change at Illinois State, played out of position last season with the Redbirds, and — along with Bertrand — saw his role on this season’s Illinois team shift from starter to reserve three weeks ago. Bertrand and Ekey, who already have received bachelor’s degrees, have handled the good and the bad times with maturity, and they enter Tuesday night’s tilt against No. 12 Michigan — their last at State Farm Center — riding high and hopeful to make a few more memories in the closing weeks of their collegiate basketball careers. “These guys have led by example of what we want to be about and who we want to be as a program on and off the court,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “It is a special day that we’re honoring Joe and Jon, not just for their playing careers, but for the type of student-athlete, person, teammate that these guys are. I’m so proud of them (and) feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to coach these guys.” Here’s a look back from both: BERTRAND The best moment of my Illinois career was ... the Indiana win last year. Winning that Missouri game this year, that was a big one doing that for the first time. There’s been a lot of big ones. Winning in the (NCAA) tournament last year. When John Groce gets mad at me ... he tells you about it. He’s not one to sugarcoat things; he keeps it straight with you. That’s what makes him a really good coach. Some coaches might try to sugarcoat situations, and that’s not the best for the team, and he lets you know so you can get it corrected.
Bertrand, Ekey look back, ahead
The News-Gazette | Mar 4