Da'Monte Williams impressed by new-look State Farm Center

Peoria Manual guard Da'Monte Williams took in the action at the State Farm Center on Saturday, as the Illini defeated South Dakota 91-79.

There's a different feeling for Peoria Manual guard Da'Monte Williams when he walks into the State Farm Center - which he did on Saturday to watch the Illini win 91-79 over South Dakota.

It was Williams' first experience in the newly-renovated arena, and he certainly took notice of the aesthetically-pleasing changes.

"It's a very nice arena. There's a lot of changes between the last one to now," Williams said. "It's just a new look for Illinois - a better look than what it used to look like."

But through all the eye-popping alterations, Williams sat in his seat and saw one thing that hasn't changed: A banner with a No. 30 jersey and his father's name, Frank Williams, hanging from the rafters.

The Illini want to be state-of-the-art when it comes to their facilities, but as for the play on the basketball court, the fan base would give anything to see flashes of old. If you take things back 14 years ago, Frank Williams was getting set to lead the Orange and Blue to their second straight conference title and state his case as Big Ten Player of the Year.

Da'Monte Williams is reminded daily of his father's success, and being inside the same building where it was created hit home.

"It's a special thing," Da'Monte Williams said. "When he played here, most likely every seat was filled. If I choose to come here, I'd like to do the same."

Illini fans will oblige if the program gets back to that echelon, and the 2017 class is the biggest determinant. Da'Monte Williams joins fellow downstate targets Jordan Goodwin and Javon Pickett in the must-get category for John Groce and his staff.

The fan base is fully aware of the importance, and Da'Monte Williams said he appreciates the love they show.

"I love Illini fans," he said. "They let you know when someone is here on campus. They look out for them so they can have a good time when they're here."

Illinois is hoping to capitalize off their early position. It's no secret that they are making a strong push to close the deal sooner rather than later.

"They're trying to keep me coming back to campus to see how things are down here before I make a decision on where I go," Da'Monte Williams said.

When will that decision come? That's the key question right now.

"I haven't really looking into it as much as I should," Da'Monte Williams said. "It's my first game down here at Illinois this year, and I'll be back for a couple more. Then I'll maybe go see some other games too."

What the Peoria product is sure about is his play on the court.

"I feel very good. We're 6-0 right now," he said. "Me pushing the ball is better for our team. Keep going at 'em and score all the easy buckets."

Da'Monte Williams is currently ranked No. 37 in the 2017 class, per the Scout.com rankings. He sports a calm demeanor, smooth stroke and great court vision off the dribble.

Illini junior Malcolm Hill has those same qualities and he put them on display against South Dakota on Saturday. Da'Monte Williams said that is what stood out the most from watching courtside.

"To see Malcolm Hill just takeover and kill it out there is always good," he said. "I've seen a lot from Malcolm. He sees the floor very well. Whenever someone is open, he's not a selfish kid. He gets it to whoever is open and they score off of him."

The Illini hope that Da'Monte Williams will do something similar if he decides to follow his father's footsteps to the Champaign hardwood.


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