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Battle? Gill? Anderson? 1989 Illini team weighs in on who was the best

Illinois head coach Lou Henswalks from court hhwith players Nick Andersleft Kenny Battle following their 83-69 victory over Louisville NCAA

Illinois head coach Lou Henson walks from the court hand in hand with players Nick Anderson, left, and Kenny Battle, following their 83-69 victory over Louisville in NCAA action in the Metrodome, March 25, 1989. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

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Updated: April 1, 2014 10:09PM

There’s more than one side to every story. For example, Illinois’ heartbreaking 83-81 loss to Michigan in the 1989 Final Four was a joyous occasion … for the Wolverines. They’d been blown out twice by the Flying Illini during the regular season.

“I still love that we beat them,” said Terry Mills, a 6-10 forward on Michigan’s national championship team who now helps call the school’s games as a radio analyst.

“They beat us twice during the year. The loss at home, it was Senior Night for Glen [Rice] and Mark Hughes. It was embarrassing. We were crushed.”

The guy the Wolverines especially loved beating was Kenny Battle. According to Mills, the Wolverines considered him Illinois’ best player.

Speaking of which: Within the Flying Illini, who was considered the best player?

Battle agrees with Michigan.

“It ain’t about being biased, but I’d have to say myself,” he said. “I brought a lot to that team. The energy, defense, aggressiveness, style of play.”

But there’s more than one side to this story, too.

“In my opinion, I would have to say Kendall Gill,” said Nick Anderson. “I think he held us together with his mentality and his approach to the game. He was an extension of the coaches on the floor. I respected everything about him.”

Gill, a junior guard, averaged 15.4 points. Battle, a senior forward, averaged 16.6 points and led the team in steals (and definitely in dunks).

But the leading scorer was Anderson, a thick-shouldered 6-6 guard who scored 18 per game and also led a team without a true big man in rebounding. Gill and Stephen Bardo say Anderson was the man.

“Kenny Battle had spirit, he had infectiousness, but Nick was the most complete player,” Bardo said. “Kenny took the fans by storm, but when we needed a bucket? Nick.”


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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