Bruce Douglas has his number hanging in the rafters of the Assembly Hall as one of the all-time greats at Illinois. His college career spanned the years 1982-86. In that time, he established records for assists and steals that stand today. He also ranks fourth in total minutes played for the Illini. But records were always secondary with him.
"I never set out to set records. I tell people that all the time. I just went out and played hard every night. It was just one of the rewards for playing with great people and being a part of a great program. It was some great teams throughout the years. Our memories live way beyond what we can do and what we can think."
His Illini career also opened up post-graduate opportunities and helped mold him into the person he is today.
"I thank God for the privilege of having athletic ability and be able to use it at a great institution. To be able to impact lives and influence people, and to be able to enjoy the game the way I was able to, there's nothing like that. It's just a blessing."
Douglas was the consummate pass-first point guard. Point guards were abundant when he played, but that trend has changed for the worse since then. He believes he knows why.
"Yeah, I think the game has shifted a little bit. There's a lot more emphasis on the three-pointer, and a lot more emphasis on offense. Some of the understanding of the basics and putting the team together has kind of fallen a little bit to the back. There's nothing better than a great point guard. If you find a point guard, you can have a successful team."
A true point guard must consider the needs of his teammates and work to set them up for open shots. That kind of unselfishness is less common today.
"That sacrifice is hard to do. We were in a program where that was an emphasis. Today, there's a lot more emphasis on individual performance. In our day and time, there was a lot more emphasis on winning. I came from a great program in high school and from a family that promoted sacrifice. It was easy for me to do."
Douglas brought his son Bryce to campus for a football game last fall. He hopes the Plainfield Central junior nose guard will merit a major college scholarship.
"He's a good athlete, he had a good year and he's working hard. Today, it's all about commitment and remaining focused. He knows academics is first; he's a good student. We're hoping he'll play somewhere in Division 1."
Of course, it would be ideal if Bryce attends his alma mater. He hopes new memories as a father with a talented son will approach the great ones from his playing days.
"This is still a great place to go to school. So it's exciting. Nothing exceeds (my career), but there's nothing better than having your son having a chance to come down here and see what it feels like to be part of the Illinois atmosphere."
Douglas was one of the premier stars of the Lou Henson era. Henson saw his name join Douglas on the Assembly Hall ceiling this week. Douglas will always revere him as a coach.
"Coach Henson was a great coach, a great person as well. I was born for Illinois. It was a great place to be a part of.
"I played high school basketball here in the state tournament, and then the atmosphere down here, the people, the fans, the education, all those things fit right into the kind of character I wanted to develop. Coach Henson was able to harness that and help me be successful during that time in my life."