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Powell Is Influenced by Divine Inspiration

Times Staff Writer

Three years ago, Illinois senior forward Roger Powell began attending team bible study started by former Illini player and current Laker Brian Cook.

Last October, Powell, 22, was licensed as a minister at a Pentecostal church in his hometown of Joliet, Ill. “There are some basketball stars his age who get asked to do a speaking engagement to entertain at a banquet,” wrote Mike Downey in the Chicago Tribune. “It’s quite different in Roger Powell’s case.

“ ‘People ask me to come preach at their church,’ he says.”

So if people say Powell is preaching to the choir, he probably is.

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Holy nickname: Powell is known to teammates as “Rev.”

“I don’t call myself ‘Rev,’ ” he told the Tribune. “Somebody else came up with that. I just said, ‘Hmm, that sounds catchy.’ ”

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Trivia time: Illinois has won consecutive Big Ten basketball championships. When did the Illini last win an outright Big Ten title?

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Madness stops here: New Baltimore Raven quarterback coach Rick Neuheisel’s participation in a neighborhood NCAA pool led to his undoing as the University of Washington’s football coach.

Neuheisel told the Washington Post that several of his new colleagues asked if he’d be interested in getting into the office NCAA tournament pool. A few days later, a D.C.-area auto dealer dangled a $1,500 March Madness rebate offer at him.

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“I passed on the pool,” Neuheisel said. “The car? I was thinking, ‘Don’t tell me that.’ March Madness is the last thing I wanted to hear.”

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Following form: If Illinois and North Carolina end up playing for the national championship, it won’t come as a surprise. In brackets filled out on Yahoo.com, 31.2% picked Illinois to win it all and 31.1% picked North Carolina. Duke was a distant third at 10.3%.

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Tough task: So how hard is it to predict the NCAA tournament? Consider this: Of the more than 3 million entries in an ESPN.com challenge, there were zero entries that had all 16 teams in the Sweet 16. And only 15 entries had 15 of the 16 teams.

However, 4,172 entries have the correct Final Four. Of those, 2,582 have North Carolina and Illinois meeting in the title game and 1,737 have Illinois winning. The two leading brackets had 52 correct picks out of a possible 60.

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Looking back: On this day in 1987, Keith Smart made a 16-foot jump shot with four seconds left to give Indiana a 74-73 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA championship game.

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Trivia answer: 1952. The Illini reached the Final Four that season, losing to St. John’s, 61-59, in the semifinals and beating Santa Clara, 67-64, in the third-place game.

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And finally: Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg, formerly of Long Beach State, was asked by Fox Sports radio’s Van Earl Wright about Mike Krzyzewski’s credit card commercial.

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Greenberg said, “The only thing that offends me in the commercial is, they act like that is the only program that cares [about its players]. We all care.”

Larry Stewart can be reached at larry.stewart@latimes.com.


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