Former Illinois forward Brian Randle returned to Illinois for the Alumni Game. It brought back a lot of memories of game days past.
"It's nice. I've been waiting for it for three years now. I can't say how much I want to come back. The turnout was amazing, more than I thought, especially with the heat. With the Illinois fans and Orange Krush coming out, it was amazing."
Randle missed out on the last alumni game, so when he got the opportunity to participate this year, the decision was automatic.
"I got an email from Rod Cardinal and Chris Tuttle. When I saw the date, it was a no-brainer. Last time, I think it was in September and a lot of guys were gone. I was kind of mad I couldn't come. I'm glad they changed it and a lot of the guys could make it. Again, it was a no-brainer for me and an immediate ‘yes'."
Randle is fortunate enough to see some of his Illinois teammates during the offseason. Still, the opportunity to reunite generations of Illini was a special occasion to him.
"Some of us live in Chicago, so we meet and play in the summertime. But to get a bunch of Illinois greats with all of the Illinois lineage back in the Hall and on the court, it's like nothing else. I'm fortunate, and I'm grateful."
Over 20 years removed from their playing careers, many didn't know what to expect from the 1989 Flyin' Illini. However, that group impressed Randle, especially Kendall Gill.
"I was pleasantly surprised. Kendall can get a contract now. Kendall could probably make more money than me right now if he wanted to come back and play."
Randall, who is still playing professionally in the Middle East, knows the importance of always coming prepared.
"I told Jack Ingram, when the lights come on, he's ready. When you step on the court, whether it's been one month or one year, you've got to be ready to play."
Randle's current obligations have him in Jerusalem. He's happy with his location, but he's also exploring other options as his career continues.
"I'm going back to Jerusalem in Israel. It's going well as far as I'm concerned. I'm enjoying it. At this point I have a nice contract. The money is good. I'm just happy to be playing and enjoying the game of basketball. As long as I'm having fun, I want to keep it going.
"I'm hoping this is my last year in Israel. It's been very good to me, and I've been very, very blessed. But obviously there's more out there. I want to continue to move up while I can. I don't know the Lord's plan, but I pray and do what he tells me. If I'm somewhere else then great. If not, then great."
As for the future of his career and his life, Randle has high hopes.
"Hopefully still playing after five or ten years. Hopefully have a house somewhere. My wife will be teaching somewhere. Maybe have a couple little ones. I'm praying the economy stabilizes."
Returning to campus was surreal for a number of former players. Randle was no exception.
"Any time I come back on campus and come back for a game, especially today, it's like coming home. Good times, bad times, the guys from the team I was on or previous teams, current teams, we all support each other."
Randle was part of the Illinois basketball program just a couple young years ago. As a freshman, he let his frustration get the best of him. He broke his hand against a wall in practice, preventing him from helping the great 2004-05 team.
But he was able to mature through that and now shares his admonition with the recent Illinois graduates, especially Demetri McCamey.
"Be coachable and go hard. Things over there, you can play one good game and they love you. Then you play one bad game and they want to send you home. If nothing else, go hard. Have the fans love you. Have the management love you. And hopefully you can stick around and make the most of your opportunity."
Randall has ventured across the globe in pursuit of a basketball career. But wherever he is, Randle will always wear Illini Orange and Blue proudly.