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Illini greats back UI's bid for state finals

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Some of the University of Illinois' all-time great basketball players are on board with the U of I's plan to try to land the IHSA boys and girls state basketball tournaments beginning in 2016. Players from the 1988-89 Flyin' Illini, a team made up of exclusively in-state players, have been some of the most outspoken advocates for bringing the tournament back to State Farm Center.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Some of the University of Illinois' all-time great basketball players are on board with the U of I's plan to try to land the IHSA boys and girls state basketball tournaments beginning in 2016.  Players from the 1988-89 Flyin' Illini, a team made up of exclusively in-state players, have been some of the most outspoken advocates for bringing the tournament back to State Farm Center.

"We all grew up watching the state tournament at Assembly Hall on TV and wanted to play there after high school," said former Illinois and NBA star Kendall Gill, who played at Rich Central High School.

Gill led Rich Central to a second-place finish in the Class AA state tournament his senior season - a tournament played at Assembly Hall.

"It had a big part in recruiting us," Gill said.  "We all wanted to play there."

Big Ten Network analyst and former Illinois point guard Stephen Bardo agrees.  Bardo played at Carbondale High School before playing with seven Flyin' Illini teammates, who all played in the state tournament in Champaign.

"It should have never left," Bardo said via text.  "It was a huge draw.  It's a great showcase for the U of I with recruits."

One of the most highly-touted Illinois recruits of all time made a name for himself on the court at Assembly Hall as a player for King High School in Chicago.  Marcus Liberty led King to two state tournament appearances, including a state championship in 1986.

"I think it would be great for recruiting as well as the city of Champaign," Liberty said.  "I would love to see it back."
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