You grew up in the Land of Lincoln, became a legend at your home state school, and have now made a habit of returning to Champaign every summer and putting on a basketball camp for local kids. Talk about having the opportunity to return home every summer and helping out the local youth…also, are these camps something you plan on continuing to do?
"Well this is very close to my heart because there are so many children in Central Illinois that need guidance. First I think that the children need to know that they can be a success at whatever they put their mind to. If you reach even one kid it can change that kid's life. I do continue to plan on doing camps for kids. It will keep them off the streets and maybe give them some discipline so they aren't out doing things that they are not supposed to be doing."
Last year, about halfway through the season, you were traded to Orlando. How has the transition to a new team been? Also, talk about playing alongside Dwight Howard…have you ever played with another big as talented as Dwight is?
"I've played alongside one other player and that's Shaq. The sky is the limit for Dwight. He's athletic, big, physical, and there is no way you can stop him when he seals you down low. I think my game fits really well with his because we ran the high low game in college and I'm used to playing that high post position. He makes the game easier for the people around him because of his dominance."
Any big differences between playing for the Lakers and playing for the Magic?
There are a lot of differences. LA is a fast paced town; in Orlando it's more mellow. As opposed to Hollywood and the clubs and stuff, you're trading that for basically a tropical setting with a lot of ponds and lakes. You got the beach two hours away and Miami three and a half hours away…so it's not bad."
What have you been up to this summer? Working on anything specific as far as improving your own game?
"I have been working out with the coaches more so this summer so I can get a great understanding of their philosophies. I think the more I know from them and the more I know how to handle people around the organization the more people will see that I am serious about my job and serious about helping take this team to a championship. I have been close with the Lakers and we have the pieces in Orlando to win one. I think that Shaq said it best ‘first you have to believe that you can do it then you have to have the confidence to do it. And before all that you have to work for it.' I think we have a team that believes this and believes that we have to get better thru the off-season to get it done."
The NBA season and college basketball season always coincide. That being said, are you able to catch any Illini games during the season? What are your thoughts on the future of the program?
I have caught some of the games. I think it was really embarrassing that the program didn't make it to the tournament this last year. I feel that at Illinois that should be a must that they are competing every year for a championship. I think with Jerrance Howard on board they will be able to get back to their respective place on top of the Big Ten."
Last season you had the opportunity to play with fellow Illini great James Augustine. What was that like?
James helped me a lot when I first got to Orlando with the plays and things of that measure. He has always been a hard worker and he still is today. It was good having someone on the team that I knew when the trade went down."
Lastly, your good friend Jerrance Howard recently became an assistant on Coach Weber's staff. Have you had the chance to speak with Jerrance about the team and the state of Illini hoops?
"I speak with him all the time. He is a great person and he bleeds orange and blue. I think as the years go on he will do fine for the University."
For more on the camp you can read it here: www.briancookcamps.com