Cory Bradford starred for Illinois from 1999 to 2002. He is the fifth leading scorer all-time with 1735 career points. And he holds the NCAA record of 88 straight games with at least one three-pointer, a feat that may never be topped. It was a pleasant surprise to find him watching the Illini game in the Assembly Hall Tuesday night.
"I'm just here for a break," Bradford explains. "I was over in Colombia for a short season. We finished up on Saturday. I was home Monday, so my wife is happy right now."
He has another basketball adventure coming up soon.
"I'll be going to Venezuela in January. So I've got a couple months off. I live in Chicago now. My wife is in interior design there. So I'm able to squeeze as much time with her as I possibly can."
Bradford's pro career has allowed him a chance to see many areas of the world.
"I'd been playing in Europe. Last season was my first time playing in South America. I played four years in Hungary, two years in France, one year in Cypress. I played in Venezuela last year."
He is playing well and having fun.
"I love it. Personally, I've been playing wonderful, and the teams I've been playing for are wonderful. It beats this Illinois weather, man. But it's always good to be back."
Bradford hopes he has several more good years left in his career.
"I'm healthy. I'm 30 years old, but I feel like I'm 20. Overall, I'm very satisfied with my career. I'll keep going until my body tells me it's time to give it up. If I can squeeze 4-5 more years out, that would be a blessing."
Has he been able to keep track of the Illini?
"Whenever I can, with my computer or whatever. When I get an opportunity to get the game, and it's not too late. In South America, there's no problem with the time. But in Europe it's kind of tough due to the time difference. Other than that, I catch them whenever I can."
It's only been 7 years since he played in the Assembly Hall, but he sees differences.
"It seems like everything is a lot brighter. There's a lot more orange, and the enthusiasm has definitely changed since I left."
Bradford likes the look of the Illini team this year.
"This year, I think they've got a special group. I was telling Coach he has a talented group of guys that can put the ball in the hole. But it always comes down to the intangibles of who is gonna do it."
There will be more top talent entering school next year.
"It's definitely gonna get interesting. I'm very happy for the program. I'll always bleed Orange and Blue, and I'm sure this season and the years to come, it's gonna be fun to watch."
Bradford will be living full time in Chicago once his playing career is over. He hopes basketball will continue to be an important part of his long-term future.
"I'd love to get into coaching. That's always been a dream of mine, so hopefully something will happen for me. I hope I can step beside Jerrance and contribute to the program."