Bruce Weber Talks Alumni Game, Djimde

Mark your calendar. August 6th promises to be one of those special days in Fighting Illini basketball lore as a large number of former stars from the last two decades play an Alumni Game at the Assembly Hall. Timed to coincide with Illini and NBA star Deron Williams's Point Of Hope Foundation activities, the current Illini team will also play an intrasquad scrimmage.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber met with the media Monday to discuss the August 6th activities. The day promises to be unique.

"We're really excited to have another basketball family reunion, bringing the former guys back. Deron's Foundation and Deron (Williams) spearhead the thing. Having the star power that he brings, we appreciate him staying involved.

"And then to have all the other former guys back. We've had a great response already, and I think we'll have a lot of players back. We look forward to a great event that matches the last time we had it."

Illini players already committed to attend include Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Luther Head, Kendall Gill, Brian Cook, Kiwane Garris, Frank Williams, Demetri McCamey, Cory Bradford, Kevin Turner, Jerry Hester, Robert Archibald, Sergio McClain, Brian Randle, Damir Krupalija, and Trent Meacham.

Also, Mike Davis, Jarrod Gee, Lucas Johnson, Mike Tisdale, Chris Gandy, Jack Ingram, Marcus Griffin, Calvin Brock and Arias Davis. Former players and current UI basketball staff members Jerrance Howard, Sean Harrington and Chester Frazier will also participate. More may be added later.

Weber realizes this event is a great chance for former players and fans to reconnect.

"I know they appreciate the opportunity to be back on campus, and the fans appreciate it. You saw the last time, the turnout was unbelievable. I don't know if we can get close to that. If we have somewhere near that turnout, I think it'll be a great event. To keep those guys in touch and part of the basketball program is so important."

Williams's Point Of Hope Foundation endows a full basketball scholarship for Illinois. It plans a morning golf outing and post game reception to coincide with the event. Williams led the 2004-05 Illini team to the National Championship title game, and Weber is grateful his former star maintains a close relationship with his school.

"(It's also exciting) to work it around Deron's Foundation. It's one of the proudest things for me to watch him on TV and have success in the NBA and Olympics, and to know that he is giving back not only to the University but also to other people in need."

Some have wanted to see an alumni game every year, but Weber feels the event is more special if done infrequently.

"The last time we had it was some 20 or so years ago. When we unveiled the jerseys (three years ago) and had some people back that hadn't been back since graduation, it made it more special. I think if you do it too much, it maybe loses a little bit of that special quality.

"Every year, we bring back former players for a game. But I think every 3, 4 or 5 years you want to have an event like this. We looked at 2012, but with Deron's situation, he's hoping to be in the Olympics in London, so this was the chance to do it."

The current Illini team has scheduled a ten day trip to Italy for mid August, so this is also a great opportunity for Illini fans to get their first glimpse of the upcoming team and its large number of newcomers as they practice for their trip.

"You do it that weekend, you tie it in with our trip to Italy. I think it'll be a great event. We're gonna have a little intrasquad game, a prelim game to the Alumni Game. So the fans will get to see the new guys coming in.

"Our fans are always basketball hungry, so they'll have a chance to see us and the Alumni Game. So it worked out with a good situation with our trip and Deron's event tied in together."

Without air conditioning, the Assembly Hall can be hot in August. Weber joked the conditions might encourage donations for Assembly Hall renovations. Of course, he hopes no one will be discouraged from attending due to the heat.

"It's been brought up. We had it in September and it was hot, and people still came and enjoyed it. We'll keep it short. We'll probably play 15-20 minutes. And for the alumni's own sake with conditioning, we'll keep that short.

"It's (a chance) to be there and see the former guys, get autographs and see our new guys coming in. It should be a nice Saturday night before football gets going."

The 2004-05 Illinois team was special and has stood the test of time. It continues to be a magnet for conversation. Those great memories can be relived August 6th. Weber reflected on that season.

"It's amazing. It seems like I just got here and it just happened. But those guys are out now, a lot of them are married and have families. You're going on six seasons ago that it happened.

"We went around with the Caravan in May, and that's one of the things people always bring up. I sign a lot of programs from the Final Four, and posters and things like that. It's still a great memory, and off and on it's on the Big 10 Classics or ESPN's Classics, from the Arizona game to the Final Four. It's still a special memory for us and for Illini fans."

Weber was asked about the status of freshman signee Ibrahima Djimde. The native of Mali is still trying to complete all the paperwork and get all the clearances required for admission to the UI. Weber is still optimistic he can be cleared in time to travel with the team in August.

"It's still a work in progress. I said when we signed him it was gonna be a little more complicated than I anticipated. He's probably close to getting all the stuff for the NCAA to have some kind of decision by them. And then we're getting everything together here at the University to see if he can get admission here.

"There's a lot of little things that he has to deal with, and we have to deal with. It's collection of all the data and then people making decisions.

"We still can get him here for summer school. There are some four week classes, July classes, there's some different options. If we can work it out in the next week to 10 days, it would be great to have him.

"I talked to him today, and I said, 'Keep hanging in there.' We're hoping it works out for him because he's a great kid. We'd like to have him be part of the program."

The rush is to get him here in time for the Italy trip. Weber says he is not concerned about Djimde getting into school.

"There's no doubt you could get him in by fall. But I think there are still some options for summer. There's four week courses beginning after July 4, Internet classes through the University. There's a lot more options than there used to be. We're hoping for the best for him.

"If you pass 3 hours in the summer, you can go to Italy. And if you're in summer school, you can practice."

Weber was also asked the progress Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale are making in their quest to be drafted by the NBA.

"Demetri has had great workouts. Each time I've talked to him, he's been very excited with what he's done, whether it is the Knicks or the Bulls or whatever. We've had a few teams continue to call.

"I think Demetri has a great chance somewhere at the end of the first round or at worst second round. At least, that's what it looks like now. But a lot of things can happen. I told him, 'Whatever they tell you, keep working because the more teams you have interested, the more opportunities you have.'

"Mike Davis has been at several workouts. You're always hoping for the best for them. I think with Mike Tisdale or Mike Davis, it would be a specialty thing.

"The last workout Tiz was at, he shot 22 for 25 from three. That's good for anybody. When you're a seven-footer, it maybe gives you a little bit of hope somebody would see you as a specialist. And then Mike Davis's athleticism and ability to run and do some things may give him a little niche and somebody gets excited about him."


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