URBANA — An Illini basketball player ended up in jail after an incident at the Canopy Club. Leron Black faces charges for threatening a security guard with a knife. He’s the latest Illini athlete to get in trouble with police.
Black is accused of aggravated assault, which is a felony. We talked with people who were at the club on Thursday night. They say it looked like multiple fights were starting as the headliner took the stage. Workers say the security guards were just trying to do their job.
“There were a lot of people there,” said Clara Rojas, who was at the Lil Durk concert. “I think especially because the artist is well known in Chicago, it was crowded too.”
Rojas says she tried to get close to the stage when the headliner came out, but then things took a turn.
“A lot of shoving,” said Rojas. “Even the artist, he stopped his song and was like, ‘you need to stop what you’re doing. It’s not what I came here for.’ Even he had to say something.”
That wasn’t enough to calm the crowd.
“I saw a group of guys punching each other and it was a big opening because a lot of people moved away,” said Rojas. “But security did escort them out and everything was fine after that.”
Rojas says she’s not sure who was involved in the fights she saw. But University of Illinois police say Illini sophomore forward Black was there. He’s been sidelined with a knee injury for a few months. Now he’s suspended indefinitely.
Prosecutors say Black was there with a group of people. When security officers fried to break up a fight, authorities say Black became hostile. They say he yelled, “I don’t have a strap, but I’m not afraid to cut somebody.” Then authorities say he pulled out a knife with a 4-inch blade and waved it in a security officer’s face. A knife that matched that description was found in the area. Black pleaded not guilty in court on Friday afternoon.
Rojas says the situation never should have happened.
“We all went out there to enjoy the concert,” said Rojas. “It wasn’t a place to fight or do anything violent. Pushing is normal, but to bring it up to violence and more violent acts, that was unnecessary.”
Black was arrested and questioned by police. He told officers he thought the bouncers were unfair when they got kicked out. Prosecutors say he was also frustrated about the way his girlfriend was treated. Authorities say Black admitted to threatening the security officer with the knife.
If Black is convicted, he could face a range of legal penalties. He could get between 1 and 3 years behind bars, 30 months probation or have to pay a fine up to $25,000. Black’s bond was set at $5,000. He was in jail on Friday morning, but he’s not listed as being there anymore.
This isn’t the first time one of Illinois Head Basketball Coach John Groce’s players has been in trouble. Black is actually the fourth player to be suspended indefinitely since Groce took over. Darius Paul, Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby were all suspended indefinitely in the last three years for violating team rules.
Darius Paul has actually been suspended twice. The first time was in April of 2014 for resisting a police officer. He was later given a one-year suspension from the team and he ended up transferring to a junior college. He returned last summer and was kicked off the team after getting arrested during the team’s foreign trip to France.
Rice and Cosby were both suspended indefinitely in January of 2015 for violating team rules. Rice returned after nine games. Cosby never suited up again for Illinois, electing to transfer and he now plays at Western Kentucky. Interestingly enough, all of those guys were suspended when they were either hurt or sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Groce released a short statement.
“We are aware of the incident involving Leron Black,” said Groce. “He has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities as we await the legal process.
New Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said he’s aware of the incident. He said he’ll allow Groce to handle the matter, but he’s keeping an eye on it.