His family's name on the athletic department building won't push Peoria Notre Dame High School senior center Max Bielfeldt to accept an offer to join the Illinois basketball program as a preferred walk-on, he said.

His family's name on the athletic department building won't push Peoria Notre Dame High School senior center Max Bielfeldt to accept an offer to join the Illinois basketball program as a preferred walk-on, he said.

Illinois offered a plan to walk on with the possibility of a scholarship on a year-to-year basis when one is available, but imagine the idea of playing games across the street from the Bielfeldt Athletic Administration Building, constructed after an endowment from his grandparents Gary and Carlotta.

"I don't think it would be too big of a deal,'' Bielfeldt said. "I'm not going to come here because of my family ties. It's also not something that I will shy away from because of my family ties.

"(A decision) depends when I look at things -- the whole playing time situation, everything that goes into it with the team, the coaches and what fits me.''

The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Bielfeldt doesn't have the explosiveness to wow recruiters. Nevertheless, he gets the job done for Notre Dame.

Bielfeldt finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, including the game-winning free throws with 3.4 seconds left, in a 48-46 win over Chicago St. Ignatius and Illini recruit Nnanna Egwu in the Shootout at the Hall on Saturday. Egwu, a center who signed a letter of intent with Illinois in November, had six points, five rebounds and three blocks while limited with foul trouble.

After losing 15 pounds after last season and getting off to a strong start, Bielfeldt has scholarship offers from Illinois-Chicago, Ball State, Western Michigan and Wright State.

Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown in the Ivy League are also showing interest, and a member of the Virginia coaching staff traveled to Peoria to watch Bielfeldt play Peoria Manual Friday night, Notre Dame coach Eddie Mathews said. Utah State also made preliminary contact.

"He's a nice big man prospect at the right level,'' said Chicago-based analyst Joe Henricksen said. "He's improved. He's got an uncanny way of using his body. He's a below-the-rim guy, but he offers something every coach at every level covets. It's size. He's got some strengths. He's got an ability to overcome his deficiencies.

"He tops out as a mid-major prospect without question, but I'd take him as a walk-on in a heartbeat if I'm Illinois.''

Bielfeldt's marketability could rise if he stays productive. He's averaging 26.1 points and 12.7 rebounds. In leading Notre Dame to the Tournament of Champions title earlier this season, he averaged 30 points and 13.8 rebounds to earn MVP for the second straight season.

"I'm taking more calls from coaches inquiring about him,'' Henricksen said. "If you've got size, some ability and you're available in February, March and April, schools are going to come calling.''

FOOTBALL: Illinois hosts Western Michigan in the season opener on Sept. 1 and also plays non-conference home games against Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech in the 2012 schedule released Monday. Illinois goes on the road against Arizona State.

Illinois also hosts Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue in the Big Ten while playing road games against Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern.

The school also chose the Oct. 1 date against Northwestern in 2011 for homecoming.
Illinois (6-6) meets Baylor (7-5) in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 (5 p.m., ESPN) in Houston. The Illini began bowl preparations with practices Friday and Saturday. Illinois will continue to work on fundamentals before changing to game preparation in its seventh or eighth workout in bowl season, coach Ron Zook said.

VOLLEYBALL: After ending the season with a 24-9 record after a five-set regional semifinal loss to Texas in the Sweet 16 Friday, Illinois keeps adding young talent. Lyons Township senior Jocelynn Birks and Ali Stark, who was named Iowa's player of the year, are two of the 24 players who will compete in the Under Armour All-America match this weekend in Kansas City, the site of the NCAA Final Four.

The Illini recruiting class also includes Liz McMahon, ranked No. 3 in her class nationally.

The Illini return five starters, including freshman libero Jennifer Bonilla finished with a school record 623 digs. With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten will have seven returning Sweet 16 teams. Illinois reached the Sweet 16 for the third straight season.

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

2011 Illinois football schedule

Home game in CAPS
Sept. 3 -- ARKANSAS STATE
Sept. 10 -- SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
Sept. 17 -- ARIZONA STATE
Sept. 24 -- WESTERN MICHIGAN
Oct. 1 -- NORTHWESTERN
Oct. 8 -- at Indiana
Oct. 15 -- OHIO STATE
Oct. 22 -- at Purdue
Oct. 29 -- at Penn State
Nov. 12 -- MICHIGAN
Nov. 19 -- WISCONSIN
Nov. 26 -- at Minnesota

2012 Illinois football schedule

Home games in CAPS
Sept. 1 -- WESTERN MICHIGAN
Sept. 8 -- at Arizona State
Sept. 15 -- CHARLESTON SOUTHERN
Sept. 22 -- LOUISIANA TECH
Sept. 29 -- PENN STATE
Oct. 6 -- at Wisconsin
Oct. 13 -- at Michigan
Oct. 27 -- INDIANA
Nov. 3 -- at Ohio State
Nov. 10 -- MINNESOTA
Nov. 17 -- PURDUE
Nov. 24  -- at Northwestern