McLaurin Makes an Appearance

Sam McLaurin showed his face at a recent Illiini game. Find out what he's been doing and where he plans to head next.

ATLANTA – Hey look, there's Sam McLaurin.

The buzz zipped down press row and eventually out on to the court during warm-ups, as the former Illini showed up in Atlanta Sunday, sitting front row to catch his former teammates in action against Auburn.

An injured meniscus recently forced the 6-foot-8 McLaurin back from Finland, where he was averaging over 14 points and seven rebounds a game.

"It was a decision that you could stay there and rehab, but it's kind of lonely overseas," he said. "If you're not playing basketball, then why are you there? I decided to come back."

He's in Tallahassee for the time being with plans of returning to familiar territory soon. McLaurin intends to move back to Champaign after Christmas to rehab and get back in playing shape.

"After I make a full recovery I'm going to go back overseas," he said. "Where I don't know. I had a lot of teams offer me right after I got hurt. It was promising, so I must have done a good job while I was out there."

McLaurin was a much-needed addition in John Groce's first season. The Coastal Carolina transfer logged over 20 minutes, scored nearly four points and pulled over three rebounds a game last season.

His statistics don't tell the story. McLaurin was able to come in and become a leader in only one season, a glue guy that could play both forward and center to provide depth.

He spent only one season at Illinois, but he's an Illini for life now. There was a seven-hour time difference in Finland, so McLaurin missed a lot of Illinois' games. It was important that he get to Atlanta to show his support. With smiles and laughs, he stood near the tunnel before the start of the game and shook hands with every player.

"Yeah I have kept up with it," he said.

While in Finland, McLaurin said he was able to devote most of his time to basketball. He enjoyed making his passion his profession.

"No more class anymore so you eat, sleep, breath basketball," he said. "It was a great experience. There's a lot of great players over there."

Moving across the world, of course, offered challenges. McLaurin had some help, though.

"Where I was I had three Americans on my team," he said. "That kind of helps to have guys that have been through some of the same things I have and helped me with the language and all. Over there they spoke English so that made things easier. Some people didn't, but the younger crowd did."

McLaurin wants to get back as soon as he can. He says he'll take the proper steps to get healthy and be patient in taking the next step in his playing career.

"I liked it. It was a lot of fun," he said. "You kind of get lonely and stuff sometimes but once you learn to keep yourself busy you get through it."


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