Jerry Hester: Great Weekend of Illinois Hoops
Jerry Hester was a starting forward for the Illinois basketball team from 1993 to 1998, aside from a redshirt season during the 1996-1997 campaign. During his career in Champaign, Hester averaged 11.4 points per game and also averaged 4.5 rebounds per game.
What were your thoughts of the night of the legend's basketball game?
"It was a great weekend. It started Friday evening, when Deron (Williams) had his foundation dinner held up here in Chicago. It was nice to see everyone come out and support all the different eras of Illinois basketball. Also to see the support and charities of Deron's foundation was really good. Saturday to have all those players on the court together was great, even though a lot of us have not played (laughing) in a long, long time. It was still a phenomenal event and as a fan to see some of those older players that you grew up watching and admiring all in the same place was nice."
Do you stay in contact with some of the guys you used to play with?
"Oh yes, I keep in contact with as many of them as I can. Most of the ones that played in my era, I at least know where they are from a living standpoint. Even the ones that didn't show up I still keep in contact with, like Kiwane Garris and Herb Cardwell who was one of the walk-ons and fan favorites when I was here. Arias Davis was there, along with Sergio, those guys I keep in contact with quite a bit. It was fun to see them but also the guys you don't keep in contact with as much, guys like Nick Anderson, Ervin Small. It was great to see them too."
What are your thoughts on all the great basketball players to put on the Illinois basketball uniform, and how good you guys were? That's a lot of talent.
"Oh I've always thought about that even before this event. On the radio I always have programs in front of me so I'm always looking up past records. When someone rebounds or shoots a three or whatever I'm always looking through those records and seeing the player's name and what they have accomplished at the university and some at the next level. I'm truly amazed to see all the talent come through. You have to give thanks to Deron for putting this together, and a special thanks to Rod Cardinal who really facilitated to getting everyone together."
How has what Deron Williams has done in the NBA and the Olympics impacted the Illinois basketball program?
"It helps tremendously. It helps from a recruiting standpoint to say you have an Olympian and someone who just won the gold medal, and one of the first things he did after winning that gold medal was come back to the school that he played at. When I was in high school if I was looking at a situation and seeing the family atmosphere that was on that court this past weekend that would something I would definitely want to be a part of."
Last year was not a great season by Illinois basketball standards; do you think things will get turned around this season?
"I don't see a quick turnaround. I think they'll be better than they were last year hopefully. They have a couple new guys coming in I really like, Alex Legion who will be available right before Big Ten season, and the JUCO big man Dominique Keller. And some of the young guys last year should have some growth. You hear in the basketball circle sometimes the biggest jump for players will be their sophomore year. Guys like Tisdale, Davis, Bill Cole, and Demetri McCamey…if those guys can make that leap the team should be in good shape this year."
Thanks Jerry, the Illini fans nationwide will love to read your comments.
No problem Kedric anytime.
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