It took Deon Thomas a few years, but he said he finally understood what Bob Hambric was trying to teach him.
Thomas, the University of Illinois basketball team's all-time leading scorer, played for the late Hambric at Simeon. When he started coaching, he said he had a talk with Hambric.
"I called him to say 'Thank you, Coach,' and he said 'Thanks for what?'" Thomas said. "I said for all the little things he taught us and Coach Hambric said, 'Deon, you must be coaching.' I had to laugh because I never realized why he had us do what he did, but now I know."
Thomas is the head coach at Lewis & Clark Community College in downstate Godfrey. He will be at the inaugural Bob Hambric Shootout, co-sponsored by The Times Media Co. There are four games today and four games on Sunday. Tickets are $8 per day.
Hambric died two years ago from cancer and T.F. North boys basketball coach Tim Bankston organized the two-day Bob Hambric Shootout at T.F. North High School.
"This is a way to bring awareness to a terrible disease and to honor our coach," Thomas said. "I don't think you realize what an impact he had on young men, some who needed it, unless you played or knew Coach Hambric.
"He was a father to many kids who didn't have one. He got on you to be a good citizen, how to be a man and to give back to your community.
"This is one way Tim is helping give back."
Thomas is involved wit the Lupus Foundation.
Thomas, a McDonald's Prep All-American, finished his career at Illinois with 2,129 points. He was selected 28th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1994 NBA Draft, but chose to play overseas.
He said he did not know Hambric was sick until the coach was near the end of his life.
"I just called him out the blue and he never said anything about it," Thomas said. "It was sad to see him go. He was just a good all-around person."
There will be a lot of former Simeon players in Calumet City this weekend, including Simeon assistant coach Marcus Alderson, a 1982 Simeon grad. He is also the former Thornwood coach.
"Coach is one of the reasons I am doing what I am," Alderson said. "He touched a lot of people and now this is our way to say thank you and help raise money to fight cancer."