Trent Meacham is the epitome of an overachiever. The Illinois senior signed to play point guard for the Dayton Flyers after an outstanding career at Champaign Centennial High School. But after a successful freshman season where he started some games, he chose to return home and walk onto the Illinois team.
Meacham was promised nothing to return. Indiana coach Tom Crean, a good friend of Dayton coach Brian Gregory, hinted at some anger over Trent leaving his buddy when the Hoosiers played at the Assembly Hall earlier this year. But to set the record straight, again, Meacham was not recruited by the Illini.
"My daughter was kind of the first one to tip me off," Illinois coach Bruce Weber described recently. "She went to school with him senior year. She said Trent's thinking about transferring. I said, 'Why would he transfer? He played as a freshman and had a solid year with good coaches.'
"So we actually called Brian Gregory and tipped him off. I've known Brian a long time. We encouraged Trent to go back there, but I think he had made up his mind for a variety of reasons. He wanted to come home. His family's very close to him. He grew up loving Illinois basketball, so I guess he always had that dream of coming back here.
"The one thing we did at the beginning was tell him we weren't gonna give him a scholarship. We actually went the other way and said he should go back to Dayton. But him and his family made up their minds.
"He came to us. It wasn't like we searched him out. But he came here. We told him you're gonna be a walkon and earn your opportunities. Dayton's had good years and Trent's ended up ok. So I hope it's worked out for both groups."
Through the adversity of the transfer, paying his own way, and sitting out a year, Meacham persevered. Weber says his story is a great one.
"I think he's really transformed into a good all around player instead of just being a shooter which some people had kind of anticipated here. He's made himself into a really solid player, not only because of his shooting but he's a good defender. He's much more physical than he used to be. He's a quality individual, and he's been a very important member of our team the last few years."
The 6'-2" guard describes the work ethic he needed to make a valuable contribution to the Illini team.
"You have to love it and work at it. I thought for me, if I was smart and could shoot the ball there would be a spot on the floor for me. And just work out every day and improve in other areas. If you really work at it and bide your time, it can work."
Meacham says he has made major improvements in his four years on campus.
"I think there's two things I've really improved on with Coach Weber. And that would be defense, you can't help but improve on defense if you play for Coach Weber. And also moving without the ball. I was a point guard before I came here, and I was really forced to move without the ball in the motion offense."
Trent has benefitted from having his family and friends close by. He is never alone in Champaign. He sees no reason why other top Champaign area players couldn't repeat his success story at the UI.
"I am proud to be from Champaign and represent this community and this school. I hope there will be some more players coming out of here. There's no reason Champaign can't produce more basketball players. Hopefully, there will be some more who follow my footsteps and play for the Illini."
Trent provided only generalities about his future plans other than his upcoming marriage. But he figures basketball will be part of it.
"I got my degree in Recreation, Sports, Tourism, and my master's program is in Human Resource Education. Initially, I want to continue playing basketball and see where that goes. After that, we'll see. I've definitely thought about coaching."
A big reason Meacham doesn't want to think about the future is because he still has goals to reach right now. He and his fellow seniors have worked diligently to reverse last year's poor record, and they believe they still have a lot of basketball in front of them.
"Last season left a terrible taste in our mouths, so we used that in the off season. We didn't want to let that happen again. We've done a good job of that, but we want to keep it going."