Illini greats to reunite for alumni basketball game

By Jeremy Werner

After the Illini’s memorable 2004-05 season, most Illinois fans thought they’d never see Deron Williams play on the Assembly Hall floor again. Now, they’ll have a chance to see the Utah Jazz star twice in little more than a month.

Assembly Hall will host A Night of Legends, an alumni basketball game, on Sept. 13, at 7:00 p.m. Although the DIA cannot confirm who will attend, several Illini greats are expected to participate in the event.

Tickets will first be available to season ticket holders. If seats are available, tickets will go on sale to the public beginning Aug. 21 from the UI Athletics Ticket Office, at Assemby Hall or at www.fightingillini.com. All tickets are $15.

Members of the 2004-05 and 1988-89 Final Four teams are expected to be well-represented. Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, James Augustine, Roger Powell, Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo and Kenny Battle have all committed to participate. Others who have confirmed attendance are: Brian Cook, Kiwane Garris, Marcus Griffin, Sergio McClain, Victor Chukwudebe and Frank Williams.

“We’re excited and very pleased,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “It’s a big step for us to continue to establish our program and the tremendous tradition we have here at Illinois. …It’s very positive for our program to get these guys back.”

The event – organized by Weber, Williams and Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard – will help benefit the Point of Hope Foundation, an organization created by Williams to support those affected by cancer.

Williams will host the Illini Hoops Legends for Charity dinner benefit on Friday, Sept. 12, at the Palmer House in Chicago to benefit Point of Hope and other Illinois charities.

The Night of Legends provides an action-packed weekend for Illini fans. The football team hosts Louisiana-Lafayette at 11:30 a.m. on the same day.

Williams – who will also play at the Assembly Hall in an NBA preseason game against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 17 – will have his jersey retired as part of the festivities. His will be the first of 20 men’s jerseys and one women’s to be hung from the Assembly Hall rafters.

Sports Information Director Kent Brown said the program had been in the process of retiring alumni jerseys for more than a decade. He said Williams’ selection to the U.S. Olympic team provided the perfect candidate.

Many Illini fans have wondered whether the ’89 team or the ’05 squad would win in head-to-head competition, but Weber hesitated to confirm the dream match-up at the Night of Legends game.

“I think the ’05 guys are in a little better shape then the ’89 guys, so we’re probably going to have to (mix) them together,” Weber said. “But I’m sure that would be a nice moment to have, the ’05 and ’89 guys on the same court at the same time going against each other. I’m not sure (the ’89 team) could keep up with (the ’05 team) real well right now, but it would still be a great picture moment.”