Sunday conversation: Andy Kaufmann

Sunday conversation: Andy Kaufmann

A familiar name to Illinois basketball fans, Andy Kaufmann’s face hasn’t been so familiar in recent years.

That was until he made his first trip to State Farm Center in a long time last weekend to take part in the Flyin’ Illini’s 25th reunion at halftime of Illinois’ win against Penn State. Marcus Jackson caught up with the Jacksonville native, the 10th-leading scorer in program history, shortly after the celebration.

So, this is the first time you’ve been back in how long?
This is the first time I’ve been back here in (21) years. It’s been since I last played here.

What made now the time?
It was just a good chance. It gives my kids the chance to see these guys and get to see where I played and all the different things they hear about.

Is there a reason you stayed away for (21) years?
No, it’s not like there was any one reason. I married late, and I didn’t have kids holding me back or anything like that. There really isn’t a reason. I really like Champaign, and I enjoyed my time here. There was no reason at all for me not to come back. It’s just that I hadn’t made it a point or anything.

Where are you now?
I live in Winchester, Ill. It’s about 12 miles outside of Jacksonville. I’ve got three kids. I’ve got a 5-year-old girl (Adrienne), a 10-year-old boy (Andrew) and an 11-year-old girl (Annika).

What’s keeping you busy these days?
I was just recently working at Illinois College. I’ve done multiple jobs since leaving college. My daughter (Annika) won this Elks National Hoops Shoot, so I was busy with that, shooting free throws with her, and we ended up going out to Massachusetts with her and she won it all, so that was a big point of interest. That led to me coming back here, showing them the stadium and getting to see the game and everything else around it.

What is it like being back here with a lot of your old teammates?
It’s great getting the chance to see all these guys. The one thing you do notice is everybody’s aged a little bit, but they haven’t changed a bit as far as their personalities. I remember those just like it was yesterday. Marcus (Liberty) and Kenny Battle, these guys took me under their wing my freshman year because I wasn’t playing a lot and they kind of showed me the ropes. I learned a lot from this group.

Did you play any professional basketball?
No, I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t have a good senior year at all. If I would have left my junior year I would have had a chance, but I didn’t play very well my senior season.

How often do you hear about the shot to beat Iowa?
A lot. I hear that a lot from fans. If I run into fans or something, one of the first things they say is, “I remember when you hit that shot at the buzzer against Iowa.” That’s always good to hear (and) makes you feel good that people remember that kind of stuff.

How close do you follow the program today?
I follow it over the computer and see some games on TV. It’s an exciting time for Illinois basketball right now; that’s how I feel about it. Really excited about what’s going on with the program right now. I’m glad I was able to get here and see it.