Gill thrilled charity golf outing keeps going, growing

Gill thrilled charity golf outing keeps going, growing

SAVOY — In the early years of the event, Kendall Gill would have never guessed how long he would host his golf benefit.

Turns out the number is 29. And counting. And growing.

On Monday, there were 37 foursomes playing at the University of Illinois Orange Course. Last year's event, with a similar number of players, raised nearly $26,000 for Cunningham Children's Home.

"It feels great," Gill said. "It's not just me. It's the Cunningham staff. I started this thing off and then Cunningham took it and ran with it. Throughout the years, we've kept our relationship strong."

A 30th edition is planned.

"I put it on my calendar every year," Gill said, "and it's great that we have the turnout every year."

Gill has long been a supporter of Cunningham, which has a boys' group home named in his honor.

Former Cunningham residents have walked up to Gill on the streets of Chicago, thanking him for the help the home provided.

"That's the main reason why I started out, to help people that have been dealt a bad hand in life," Gill said.

Gill counts his blessings. He grew up in a middle class home with supportive parents.

"They gave me everything they could give me," Gill said. "I just want to give some of that back to kids who don't have what I had."

After a Hall of Fame career at Illinois, which included a lead role with the 1989 Flyin' Illini, Gill played 15 seasons in the NBA with seven teams.

The 50-year-old stays busy with boxing and TV work on Chicago Bulls games. He remains in good shape.

"I see a lot of professional athletes and they get overweight and big," Gill said. "I don't want to be like that. I stay on my diet. I work out. I want to live a long time."

League on a roll

Gill pays attention to the game during the offseason. The Bulls just drafted Duke's Wendell Carter Jr. with the seventh pick.

"I compare Wendell Carter to Al Horford of the Boston Celtics," Gill said. "I have a saying, 'I don't like guys who are all sizzle and no steak.' I think Wendell Carter is all steak. He's going to be solid."

The Western Conference just added another big piece when LeBron James moved to the Lakers.

"Guys, when they come up in free agency, have the ability to do whatever they want to do," Gill said. "Sooner or later, all the spots in the West for free agents will be dried up, so guys will be forced to go to the East if you're a top-level player."

Gill likes the direction of the Celtics, Sixers and Bulls.

"I don't think the East is really far behind," Gill said. "I give Golden State two, three more years of dominance. Then I think they will start to fall back to the pack a little bit."

But it won't happen right away.

"I don't think there is anybody in the universe that can beat that team right now in a seven-game series," Gill said.

The NBA is thriving. Despite the lack of parity.

There is talk in the NBA of changing the playoff format. Instead of deciding the field by conference, the top 16 play in the postseason.

"I would enjoy it," Gill said. "I think you have to constantly reinvent yourself as a league."

Keeping in touch

Gill follows the Illinois program closely. The addition of freshman Ayo Dosunmu was important.

"That was definitely a step in the right direction," Gill said. "He's one of the better guards in the country. As long as we can continue to get guys like that out of the Chicago Public League, like we used to when I was here, then we're going to steadily build this program.

"We've got to keep our homegrown talent here. I think Coach (Brad) Underwood is an excellent recruiter. He's built an excellent team to make things happen."

Gill was in Chicago in June for the Hall of Fame Gala. Being honored in the same class as his coach, Lou Henson, "means everything."

"All those days I spent running at Memorial Stadium in the hot summer, lifting weights, all the jump shots that we took, all the times walking to class in the snow, that's what I thought about when I got the induction," Gill said. "All of that hard work paid off."