The appreciation: Illini life through Dee’s eyes

The appreciation: Illini life through Dees eyes

By Daniel Brown

Editor’s note: Dee Brown is finishing a semester-long internship in the DIA’s Sports Information Department as a final requirement towards his degree in Sports Management. The Daily Illini asked Brown to share, in his own words, his thoughts about his career at Illinois and the people and decisions that have shaped him.

It is a privilege to write this column in a paper thousands of people read each day. This is what I’ve been thinking about and wanting people to know.

When Coach Self started recruiting me, I didn’t really know anything about Illinois, the tradition of the basketball program or how excellent the academics were at this University. I really didn’t think I would play at a Division- I school until I started developing a swagger about myself.

Being so small, I knew I had to be confident and motivated to get to that next level. I thank my family and community for helping me develop that confidence about myself because without that I wouldn’t be here today, playing for one of the best programs in the country.

I remember when Coach Self sat by me and said, “Dee, you can be the poster child for Illini basketball.” My mom and I looked at each other like, “Yeah right.” We thought he was just saying that to get me to commit.

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But after that meeting, my life changed. I committed in June of 2001 and later took my first and only visit to Champaign, a place I had never been before. I loved it. I just knew I had made the right decision and once I persuaded James and Deron to come with me, I knew it was going to be the best experience of my life.

I will love Coach Self forever for believing and taking a chance on me and helping me with the transition to college.

Coach McClain, who is a father figure to me to this day, I love for the discipline, encouragement and support he has given me. Coach McClain sat through my surgery with me last summer. When I didn’t handle my business, he was there to put me in line. With my father not being around, he stepped in and did a good job of keeping me in line and that’s something I’ll always appreciate.

Coach Weber is one of the best coaches in America. He is a basketball junkie and is so humble. Even though there were stories written about some of our misunderstandings, I love him because of the confidence and the love he has for me. Our relationship has grown so much, and without him I wouldn’t be the player I am today. He taught me a lot about my game and got me to work on all aspects of my game, so thank you Coach; you’re my coach and my guy forever.

Coach Webster, who I just met two years ago, inspires me to do well. He was such a great player and is always working with me to get better and shows me love, which makes me a better person and player.

Coach Nottingham, thank you for helping me with my game too. You are the brains behind the operation and know everything about the game.

To all the coaches, trainers, managers and support staff who are so nice and caring, I love y’all from the heart.

To my teammates, y’all are the ones who help me improve and get better everyday. If my teammates are good – which they were and are – then I’m good. If they believe and have confidence in me, then I’m going to be that much better. I’m nothing without my teammates, and they know that. We have shared so many experiences together. They are my family, and I will be there for them for the rest of my life.

To all the former Illini players, thanks so much for paving the way for players like myself. Thanks for all the memories and hard work.

To all the fans I have to say this: Thank you so much for the support and love you have not only for me, but for the whole program. To see orange on road trips, sellouts at The Hall, fans traveling around the country, it means so much to us and YOU are the reason we compete at such a high level. Love always outweighs the hate, positive overshadows the negative, and in this business when expectations aren’t met or struggles occur, what keeps me motivated and positive are the fans that wear my shirt, jerseys and hats. I really appreciate that, and it’s really a blessing to play in front of wonderful fans that care about the program and this kid who wears a headband.

I have to say that if it weren’t for the love I have for the coaching staff, Athletic Director Ron Guenther, the fans and the excitement of playing in The Hall, I would have gotten an agent and turned pro. The University of Illinois was so deep in my heart, and God made me understand how much love people have for me. Well guess what? I love y’all too!

I knew by coming back to school it would only help me send a positive message to the youth that education is essential. If people don’t think I’ll be a pro, I still can smile and say I have my degree from one of the best public universities in the country.

I hate to say this, but I’m kind of glad I broke my foot last summer because it made me a better person and made me realize my destiny and purpose in life. Thank you for the opportunities, and I will forever love the University of Illinois. I hope No. 11 lives on after I’m gone. Until then, I will continue to play my hardest and represent my school.

Your boy,

Daniel “Dee” Brown