This past Tuesday, I was lucky enough to receive a free ticket from a friend to go to the Illini men’s basketball game. They were playing our Big Ten foe, Rutgers University. It was my first time going, and I got to join my two roommates in the Orange Krush. Orange Krush is the name of the student section that cheers on the Illini Men’s Basketball Team. I highly recommend joining it because you get to meet other Illini fans and get a closer look at the team that you wouldn’t get if you were just a typical Illini fan. The Orange Krush also raise money for local philanthropist groups, so it is a great opportunity to give back to the community, all while cheering on the Illini!
The State Farm Center is the basketball arena for the Illini. A huge renovation project began in 2014 and finished in late 2016, and I finally had the chance to check it out. I must admit that they did a really great job. The coolest upgrade is the addition of an Illini Sports Hall of Fame. It’s basically a mini-museum of Illini basketball memorabilia from the great Illini basketball teams. The 2005 men’s basketball team is featured. They went to the NCAA Final Four and championship game, and the Illini Sports Hall of Fame features tons of trophies from that year. It made me feel really nostalgic for my years as a little kid cheering on the Illini. Even if you aren’t too big of a basketball fan, it’s still a sight to see. It made me appreciate the history of the basketball program.
The game itself was super exciting. I was glad to see our new head basketball coach, Brad Underwood. He was the head coach over at Oklahoma State and was rather successful there. He took his team to the NCAA Tournament during March Madness, so we have high hopes for the team this year.
It was also Deron Williams bobblehead night. Guess who made a special appearance? Deron Williams! One of the best players in Illini basketball history and three-time NBA All-Star! He was on the famous 2005 basketball team that I mentioned earlier. It was so cool to see that he remembers where he came from and and that he still cheers for the Illini.
I experienced a great fan environment while sitting in the Orange Krush section. The students had such awesome enthusiasm for the team, and they got really passionate about the game. We ended up beating Rutgers by 20 points! It definitely made me want to go to the rest of the games this season. After all, it is my last semester.