Illinois coach Brad Underwood defends college basketball amid FBI scandal

With college basketball consumed by the corruption and bribery scandal that led to 10 arrests earlier in the week, first-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood defended the sport Saturday morning before the Illini's first practice.

"There's problems, or perceived problems, in a lot of different sports," Underwood said. "I still think we've got the greatest sport going. Maybe there's a speed bump along the way and some changes need to occur, but … basketball is strong.

"These players are showing up, not just at our university but every university, and working their tails off to have a great season. That's what the focus in this gym is on. We'll see where the rest of it goes."

Underwood's former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans was one of four assistant coaches arrested Tuesday as the result of an FBI operation that uncovered coaches allegedly accepting bribes to try to steer elite recruits to a financial adviser and using funds to pay recruits.

Evans worked for Underwood during the latter's one season at Oklahoma State last year, and current Cowboys coach Mike Boynton retained him.

The allegations date to Evans' time on South Carolina's staff, a job he left to work for Underwood at Oklahoma State. Underwood was not named in the federal indictments.

Underwood declined Saturday to elaborate beyond the statement he released Wednesday, in which he called the news a "surprise."

"There's nothing more I'm going to say about that," he said. "We're here to start practice and move on. I think my statement said enough."

As for news on the court, Underwood said junior forward Leron Black will be limited in practice for a "few days" because of elbow surgery, while freshman guard DaMonte Williams, who missed much of his senior season at Peoria Manual with a torn ACL, is not quite 100 percent but getting close.

Football suspension: Illinois has suspended freshman quarterback Cameron Thomas indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules, a team spokesman said.

Thomas, a Marian Catholic graduate, has not played this season and was not in uniform for Friday's 28-6 loss to Nebraska. His absence leaves Illinois with only two scholarship quarterbacks in junior Chayce Crouch and sophomore Jeff George Jr. Walk-on Cam Miller, a redshirt freshman from Brother Rice, would be third on the depth chart.

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