Former Illini basketball center Meyers Leonard returns to campus

Meyers Leonard now drives a Porsche.

When asked if he splurged with his NBA signing bonus, the former Illini center turned Portland Trail Blazer prefaced his response by saying that he plans to invest and save the rest of his money.

Leonard met with the media during halftime of the Illinois football team’s 24-7 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday. The Robinson, Ill., native said returning to campus as an NBA player has a slightly different feel than when he was a student-athlete.

“People definitely notice me everywhere I’m at,” he said.

The Trail Blazers selected Leonard with the No. 11 pick in this spring’s NBA Draft. The 7-foot-1 center led the Illini in rebounding (8.2 per game) and was second in scoring (13.6 per game) as a sophomore last season.

Leonard said he also plans to buy a new home for his mother in Robinson rather than moving her to Portland with him.

“I’m going to leave her in Robinson, get her a new house, get her comfortable. I thought with me being away so much on the road and things like that, it was the best idea to leave her at home.”

Leonard said he has worked out with his former teammates a few times throughout the offseason, adding that he’s much stronger than he was during his two seasons in orange and blue. He said his current weight fluctuates from 250 to 254 pounds.

“When I talked to the trainers out there, they were saying you don’t want to put on the weight too quick because if you start favoring one thing you can hurt another thing,” he said. “Obviously they have had some bad luck with big men, so I’m just trying to keep my body healthy and just be me.”