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NBA veteran and Illini Great Meyers Leonard donates to Ubben’s basketball project

Inside Fighting Illini Athletics Podcast: Interview with Meyers Leonard

CHAMPAGNE, Ill. – Nine-year NBA veteran and Illinois basketball great Meyers Leonard and his wife Elle, a Gies College of Business graduate, donated $500,000 to the Ubben Basketball Complex renovation and expansion project . Meyers and Elle will be in attendance for Monday’s game against Purdue, marking Meyers’ first game in the arena since his last game as a Fighting Illini basketball player.

“The University of Illinois meant a lot to Her and me. As a young basketball player from small town Illinois, going to the University of Illinois was mecca for me,” Leonard said. . “The older I get, the more you want to give of your time, knowledge and resources. I was keen to have more impact. She and I agreed it was time to give back financially to men’s basketball .team. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while.”

Leonard, a native of Robinson, Illinois, was a consensus top-50 recruit out of high school, leading the Maroons to a Class 2A state championship title in 2010. season as a dynamic dunk machine. As a full-time starter in his second season, Leonard earned All-Big Ten honors after averaging 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, leading the conference in blocks and ranking third in rebounds and field goal percentage.

After the 2011-12 season, Leonard entered the NBA draft and was the 11and overall pick by the Portland Trailblazers where he spent seven seasons. In 2019, he was traded to the Miami Heat, helping lead the team to the 2020 NBA Finals against the Lakers.

Meyers and Elle recently became entrepreneurs, starting a health food company, Level, and launching a line of multi-flavored energy bars.

“It was such a pleasure getting to know Meyers and Elle. They are incredibly passionate people who love life, basketball and this college,” the athletic director said. Josh Whitman noted. “Since leaving campus, they have been very generous with their time, often speaking to our student-athletes about their experiences in professional sports and business. We are beyond grateful to them for championing our program. Illinois basketball in such a meaningful way.”

Ubben’s renovation and expansion will add approximately 40,000 square feet to the existing structure, while remodeling large portions of the original building. New offices for coaches and a lobby are included in the project. Two new half courts will be added to the spaces of the women’s and men’s gymnasiums, providing programs with additional space to work on player development. The project will include a strength and conditioning addition, player recovery areas and a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility, and will significantly increase the size of locker rooms and player lounges. New construction began in January 2021 with completion scheduled for the start of the 2022 basketball season.

“There’s no greater compliment a program can receive than when one of its former players chooses to give back,” the Illinois men’s basketball head coach said. Brad Underwood noted. “Visiting Meyers over the years, I heard firsthand how life changing his experience in Illinois was. to then have that opportunity and make the most of it by becoming an NBA player, he lived his dream. His pride in Illini has remained unwavering all these years, and now he’s committed to paying it. We’re grateful to Meyers and his wife Elle, also a proud U of I alum, for their support of Fighting Illini Basketball.The loyalty of former players is part of what makes Illinois such a special place.

To date, Illinois has secured commitments of $31.3 million for the renovation and expansion of the Ubben basketball complex as part of the $40 million project.

Leonard’s donation counts towards the $300 million fundraising goal for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is part of “With Illinois,” the $2.25 billion fundraising campaign in the United States. university scale.