Alumni Game Attracts Robert Archibald

The Fighting Illini Alumni Game was a great success last Saturday. Illini Nation got to watch many of its favorite players from the recent past perform once again on the Assembly Hall floor. Among the returnees were a number of athletes still playing professionally in Europe. Robert Archibald returned for his first visit since graduation.

Robert Archibald graduated in 2002, after helping Illinois to two straight Big 10 basketball championships. He was grateful for the chance to return to his alma mater for the Alumni Game and other festivities last weekend.

"It's been awesome. It's my first time back here; it's been a long time. Schedule-wise, with the longer season over in Europe, I haven't been able to get back.

"It's great to be back at the University and seeing the fans. Above all, just to see the guys and catch up with the the two Big 10 championship teams I played with. It's a really nice event. It's a special experience to get back and enjoy it."

Archibald especially enjoyed the reunion of his 2001 and 2002 Big 10 championship teams Friday evening.

"Being with our team at a nice little event is a highlight. Coach (Bill) Self was in for it. There was a lot of reminiscing. We had a good laugh, shed a tear.

"What a special connection to have with those guys. You can see what makes good teams special, the sacrifice and connection the guys form as a group.

"Dee (Brown) and Deron (Williams) stopped by out of respect, and both spoke. Dee got a little choked up. We were taken aback by that because he is obviously the man. It's always nice to get some recognition. I definitely enjoyed it."

Archibald played in the game alongside players from the 1980's, 1990's, 2000's and recent graduates. It helped remind him of the larger family of which he is a part.

"It's special. And what's cool is, you sit around in the locker room with guys from the Flying Illini and guys that just graduated. You certainly don't feel like strangers. Everyone gets along great and enjoys it. When we say family, we definitely mean it."

The 6'-11" center hasn't been gone from campus long, but he saw some changes.

"It's been 9 years since I left, so things have changed. A lot of stuff stays the same, but some of the improvements that have been made are very good."

One thing that hasn't changed is the fan support. A good-sized group braved the oppressive heat of early August to support their heroes.

"It's great. School's not even in. With A section and B section full, people came out to watch us run up and down. It's just part of what makes being here special."

Archibald is continuing to earn a living playing basketball overseas.

"I'm still playing over in Spain. I'll be going over to join the Great Britain national team for the Eurobasket, and then from there I'll go to Spain for one more season. We'll see how this year goes."

Born in Scotland, Archibald now resides in the US. He is eager to visit Illinois more frequently once his playing days are over.

"I live in Chicago in the summer. When my career is over, I'd like to get back here more often. One of the things you notice, not being able to get down for a game, it's a little harder to keep in touch. But it's one of the things I'm looking forward to."

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