Williams returns to campus hangouts



By Jeremy Werner

Deron Williams spent three years suiting up in the men’s locker room of the Assembly Hall. On Friday night, he put on his Utah Jazz warm-ups across the hall in the women’s locker room, Utah’s designated dressing area.

Asked if he’d ever been in the women’s locker room before, Williams responded: “I think I’ve been in here before … not in a bad way.”

Williams made his second trip to Champaign in a little more than a month for the Jazz preseason matchup with the Chicago Bulls. The Olympic gold medalist was the star of the night, with the crowd of 13,840 cheering nearly every time he touched the ball. A barrage of camera flashes coincided with each Williams free throw. The star of Illinois’ 2005 championship game run finished with 14 points and nine assists in 25 minutes of action as the Jazz fell to the Bulls, 108-105.


photo DI multimedia


Alumni face off in Assembly Hall

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“I had fun,” Williams said. “The crowd was great. It’s fun to be back in front of the crowd again, the fans, with a game that means a little something. The alumni game was fun, but this one was a little bit more.”

Williams used his one-day trip to Champaign to return to some college hangouts. On Thursday night, he took a group of Jazz teammates to The Ribeye, his favorite Champaign eatery. He also dropped by Ubben Basketball Complex to visit the Illinois coaching staff and sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey.

Williams visited some sights that weren’t on campus during his time at Illinois. He hit a couple of golf balls and talked to Illinois golf coach Mike Small at the year-old Demirjian Golf Facility and was impressed by the new Activities and Recreation Center.

“The (ARC) facilities were amazing,” Williams said. “I wish that would have been there when I was here. I would have been over there all the time.”

Williams said he received about 700 ticket requests for the preseason game but was only able to give out 20 tickets to family and friends.

He said he appreciated the Jazz organization’s effort to bring him back to his college home.

“It’s preseason; if it was during the season it’d be a little distracting, but it’s been fun,” Williams said. “It’s not like I was at Kam’s or anything. I was just hanging out, hanging out in the hotel.”

Williams said the game meant a “little more” being in Champaign but the exhibition was not reminiscent of the days when he wore the Orange and Blue.

“I didn’t have to go to class before the game,” Williams said.

The emerging NBA star had only a couple days of rest since the Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

Williams helped USA Basketball reclaim its world dominance, averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 assists per game as the U.S. won eight straight games to earn a gold medal.

But the former Illini doesn’t plan on resting again until June, when he hopes to add one more accomplishment to his resume.

“It’s been a pretty hectic summer, a pretty long summer,” Williams said. “It’ll be good to have a chance to rest at the end of next year after we win the (NBA) Championship.”