Bubba Chisholm’s journey to the Hall

Senior guard Bubba Chisholm joined the Illini as a walk-on in 2008 after attending Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill., for two years. The Champaign Central High School product averaged 12 points, four rebounds and six assists playing for Lincoln Land, and he earned Academic All-America honors there with a 4.0 GPA.

But few knew he would quickly become a fan favorite at Illinois.

Despite scoring just five points in 12 minutes on the court this season, he is shown overwhelming love by Illini fans when he makes an appearance on the court. They even chant “We want Bu-bba” to head coach Bruce Weber when they want to see Chisholm before the game ends.

And now, to cap off Chisholm’s collegiate career, he was recently awarded an athletic scholarship in his final semester at Illinois.

Why’d you transfer to Illinois?

“I went to junior college, so I was looking for somewhere to go. I knew Illinois was the academic school, that if you took sports away, I’d want to go to Illinois because I got into the business school. Then it was just a choice if I wanted to play for another school or try to walk on here. I figured I might as well spring for the fences.”

Did being from Champaign influence your decision?

“It definitely played a factor. I have two older sisters, an older brother and both of my parents who went here, so it kind of runs in the family. I think that played a huge part, just having that support and Illini networking.”

How do you balance academics with your basketball life?

“(Irwin Academic Services Center) does a really good job. I take my group over there a lot to do group projects. It’s a really good atmosphere. You just have to make sure to pretty much get everything done before road trips and things like that. It’s just time management. Everyone is doing something, whether you’re in a sport, a fraternity or some kind of council or something like that. You have to learn time management sometime.”

Did you ever expect to be a fan favorite with the students?

“I didn’t at all. It’s definitely been really cool. I didn’t think that the fans would reach out to me like they have. I think it’s just been awesome. At the same time, I think I relate to the fans. I feel like I’m just a fan on the team.”

How have you embraced that role?

“When I get on the court, I just try to shoot every time because that’s what the fans want. But usually, if I was actually playing for real, I wouldn’t shoot like that. I’d just try to make something happen. I feel like I can do no wrong in their eyes, which kind of helps.”

Why did coach Weber put you on scholarship for your last semester?

“I’m not sure why it is. I think it probably had something to do with (Alex Legion) leaving, but I just know that I’m the benefactor now, so I appreciate it.”