December 18, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - They ruled the Big Ten two decades ago. A group that elevated the program from a last place finish in 1999 to back to back conference titles in 2001 and 2002, laying the groundwork for the program's most successful season ever in 2004-2005 that culminated with a trip to the national championship game.
Saturday afternoon they were back at center court. More than a dozen players, managers, and support staff from those years returning to cheers from a raucous State Farm Center. The halftime ceremony was a reunion made complete by a belly-flop by Lucas Johnson.
"Yeah, it wouldn't have been the same with it", laughed Damir Krupalija, who made the trip from his home in Bosnia. "We got together last night and told stories and just laughed and reminisced. I haven't seen everyone in so long. This has been great."
Former Mr. Illinois and four-time state high school champion Sergio McClain echoed those thoughts and talked about the role his dad - the late assistant coach Wayne McClain - played in putting those rosters together.
"I mean, we all know he was out there with us. He called those guys and got them to come here and play with me. Without him, we're not out here today."
The players will stay after the game to sign autographs for fans.
The list of those in attendance: Cory Bradford, Brian Cook, Joe Cross, Marcus Griffin, Sean Harrington, Lucas Johnson, Damir Krupalija, Nate Mast, Brett Melton, Sergio McClain.
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