Former Illini Williams returns for ‘Legends’ dinner, auction

In the last year, former Illini Deron Williams has been busy helping the United States win a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and giving the state of Utah its third consecutive NBA playoff appearance.

But among all that “Jazz,” the All-American guard who led the Illini to a national runner-up finish in 2005 has still found time to give back to the community off the court.

Williams will return to Champaign this weekend to host a charity event, which will directly benefit the Illinois men’s basketball program, as well as his Point of Hope Foundation.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have Deron come back and just support our Illini basketball program,” head coach Bruce Weber said in a teleconference Wednesday. “As a coach and hopefully more of a father figure, we should be more proud that not only now Deron has become an NBA superstar and an Olympian, but he also really painted the big picture and has been really involved in his Point of Hope Foundation.”

Friday night, Williams will host the Illini Hoop Legends for Charity Dinner and Auction at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign. The dinner will feature Illinois basketball greats, honor the 1989 NCAA Final Four team and present a lifetime achievement award in honor of Jerry Colangelo, former Illini and current chairman of USA Basketball’s Board of Directors.

Williams will host the Golf Classic at Stone Creek Golf Club in Urbana on Saturday, despite his golf game being just “OK.”

“I am able to help people,” Williams said about hosting these events.

“People know where I’m playing now, so I have an influence on people. If they see me helping out, then maybe they’ll want to jump in and help out.”

The Point of Hope Foundation provides support and hope to those with cancer and to people in need.

On Aug. 7, Williams co-hosted a charity event near Salt Lake City with professional cyclist Floyd Landis. The two competed in a cycling time trial, followed by a three-point shootout.

“It was only two and a half miles, but it felt like 32 miles to me,” Williams said of the time trial. “I got a minute (head) start. When I finished the race, he almost caught me.”

But the shootout was no contest.

“I don’t think he made a shot,” Willaims said with a chuckle.

Williams and teammate Kyle Korver will have a charity dodgeball tournament on Sept. 12 to raise money for the Christmas Box House, which prevents child abuse and improves the quality of life for children who have been abused or neglected.

In addition, Williams has remained active within the University’s athletic department. Although Weber did not recruit Williams himself, he appreciates the alumnus’s effort to keep in touch with University of Illinois athletics.

“A lot of positive things are happening this weekend,” Weber said.

“I just couldn’t be more pleased that Deron wants to stay involved.”

Meanwhile, a number of former Illini greats will return to support Williams’ event, including 2005 teammates Luther Head and Roger Powell.

“It’s always fun to see those guys — those guys that played with me and other Illini athletes,” Williams said.

They are all thankful for what Williams is doing, especially Weber.

“The point guard is always somebody who gave you hope as a coach, and now he’s doing things to give people hope,” Weber said.