Jack Ingram transferred to Illinois from Tulsa in time to be part of a special season, one he will never forget. The chemistry on the 2004-05 team was tremendous, and he felt blessed each and every day he was on campus.
"It's really the memories I have with the guys. From the first guy to the last guy, we all came in and really busted it every single day. That's what I will remember the most, how we never took a day off in practice. Obviously, that translated onto the court, and the successes we had were tremendous. It was an unbelievable experience.
"We went harder on each other probably every day. It was like a day off when we were playing a game."
Ingram relived some of those memories at the recent Alumni Game. He joined starters Deron Williams, Dee Brown, James Augustine and Roger Powell on the court for a brief period.
"It's great to be back. It's great to see all the guys after a few years, and it's great with all the fans. We have the best fans in the country.
"I wish Luther (Head) could have made it out, but it was really good. Especially when you got a chance to play and run around like old times. Times change, and it's easy to get disconnected. So it's good to be back with everyone again."
Ingram enjoyed playing professionally overseas after graduation.
"I played four years, in Slovenia and Poland and Cypress. There's always things you wish you had done a little different. I gave it my all, and it was a great experience. I met my lovely wife over in Europe, and I was able to bring her back too.
"I stopped playing pro ball about a year and a half ago. I got a job in Delphi, Indiana. We're only about 2 and a half hours away, so it's not difficult to come back now."
Many in Illini Nation assumed the Illini could stay in the national limelight indefinitely after the accomplishments of the 2004-05 team. But it set expectations at such a high level, it became difficult to maintain. Ingram understands that dynamic. He believes the current Illini can regain that stature.
"We kind of increased the spotlight, which sometimes can bring negatives too. We believe that they're gonna be able to get it worked out and get going back to get what we had.
"They've got a lot of youth. We had a lot of youth when we started out on that '04-'05 team in '02. Coach Weber does a great job teaching basketball, and I think they'll work hard and get it going."
Like Ingram experienced in his time on the team, the current Illini are mostly underclassmen. Weber had his players focus on a two year project. Ingram thinks that might work again.
"It's really great when you can get guys to buy into that. You just take it one day at a time. Coach Weber's system is real fluid; it's not something you can learn overnight. It takes time. If they keep working at it, they'll do real well."