“We’ve practiced pretty hard three times in the last 24 hours and I told our guys the reward was to come out tonight and have fun with the community, the students and all the dads. What a great event."
Marcus Jackson's report from the UI's basketball shindig on Green Street on Saturday night:
WHO WAS THERE
— UI president Robert Easter and his wife Cheryl sat courtside. Cheryl Easter served as one of four judges during the dunk competition that closed the festivities.
— Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who also served as a dunk contest judge, sat near the Easters near center court.
— Illini Class of 2014 commits Michael Finke and Quentin Snider sat under one basket while 2015 targets D.J. Williams of Simeon and Aaron Jordan of Plainfield East sat courtside opposite the benches.
— Former Illini D.J. Richardson sat with the current team and was heartily applauded by the crowd when introduced by master of ceremonies Ryan Baker.
“We’ve practiced pretty hard three times in the last 24 hours and I told our guys the reward was to come out tonight and have fun with the community, the students and all the dads. What a great event. To have this event shows you the passion that people have for Illinois basketball and for Illinois athletics in general. We had 7,000 people at State Farm Center on Friday night for a volleyball game. We’re very blessed to have such a great community and to have such great fans.” — John Groce
STAR OF THE NIGHT
Fifth-year senior Joseph Bertrand closed the Illini Street Jam with a few thunderous dunks that had the crowd, which went at least six deep around the Green Street court, going wild. Bertrand outlasted Champaign native Rayvonte Rice in the finals of the competition that also featured freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Austin Colbert. “Everybody just came out and had fun, that’s the most important part,” Bertrand said. “I didn’t know what to expect and all the fans came out to support us and it was great.”
The Illini will practice again today, their fourth since practice opened Friday, before taking a day off on Monday. Currently, the schedule calls for practices on Tuesday and Wednesday with Thursday as another day off.