Maryland Ohio St Basketball

Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop, right, looks for an open pass as Maryland's Kevin Huerter defends during a Jan. 11 game at Columbus, Ohio. Bates-Diop, a former University High star, leads the Buckeyes against Illinois at 11 a.m. Sunday.

JAY LaPRETE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

For those of us who thrive on sports in Central Illinois, there is definitely a "must see" sporting event to watch on Sunday.

That's when University High School product Keita Bates-Diop, who has emerged as a leading candidate for Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, leads Ohio State against the University of Illinois. 

Get up early. The game starts at 11 a.m. on Fox Sports 1.

Bates-Diop ranks right up there with former Bloomington star Ron Curry as the best basketball talent the Twin Cities has produced in the 37 years this journalist has worked at The Pantagraph.

Many wondered when Bates-Diop was at U High why he didn't flat-out dominate the opposition. When he scored 20, they wanted 25. When he got 25, it should have been 30.

When you're as skilled and smooth as the 6-foot-7 forward who could handle it like a guard, much was expected. Anyone who caught his final game at U High in a regional championship against Lincoln saw him almost single-handedly lift the Pioneers to an upset win.

Bates-Diop has been a solid player for Ohio State, but not a star until this season. After a knee injury stopped him a year ago, Bates-Diop has turned himself into a possible NBA player.

Good for him. Bates-Diop was always polite to interview and never had any kind of attitude. Even when he goes against your alma mater, like he will on Sunday, part of you will be pulling for the local kid. 

As far as that other big-time event on Sunday ...

Watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at 5:30 p.m. (NBC) carries about as much excitement as seeing an episode of "Fixer Upper" for the eighth time.

Call it a case of Patriots Fatigue. A severe case.

The Eagles definitely can win. Their defense has been off the charts in playoff victories over Atlanta and Minnesota. Nick Foles showed against the Vikings he's capable of making plays at quarterback instead of being just a game manager.

Yet we all know how this will end, right? The Eagles will take a lead into the fourth quarter. Then Brady drives New England down the field for the winning score and confetti starts to fall. 

If there's a choice Sunday, give me Keita Bates-Diop knocking down jumpers. 

College BB: Michigan State at Indiana (ESPN, 7:15 p.m. Saturday): The scandal at Michigan State casts a gloom over the Spartans for the rest of the season. 

Winter Olympics: Figure skating, freestyle skiing (NBC, 7 p.m. Thursday): The Opening Ceremonies are telecast Friday night. But live action begins a day earlier in South Korea, which is 15 hours ahead of Central Time. So it's really Friday, anyway. Confused?

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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