Former Terrier returns to town

By Tyler Davis

A “Flyin’ Illini” team member will be landing in Carbondale Friday for a book signing that will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale.

Former NBA player Stephen Bardo is in Carbondale promoting his new book named “The Flyin’ Illini: The Untold Story of One of College Basketball’s Elite Teams.” The book follows the success of the 1989-1990 University of Illinois basketball team, which reached the Final Four.

Half of the book’s proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club in Carbondale. The former basketball star grew up in Carbondale and said he loves the opportunity to give back to his community.

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“I knew I needed a nonprofit partner and what better way to have a partnership than with the Boys and Girls club,” Bardo said. “I’m very passionate about young people and their success and I think the Boys and Girls Clubs do a fantastic job of furthering that mission.”

Bardo said the suggestion of the club came from longtime friend and member of Boys and Girls Club Board, Todd Bryson. Bryson said the partnership was an example of separate interests combining for a mutual goal.

The club receives donations and a great spokesperson for local youths and Bardo gets more exposure for his book, which examines the behind-the-scenes relationships of the fabled Illinois team.

Bardo and the “Flyin’ Illini” soared to national attention after the team started 16-0 to being the 1989-90 season. The team eventually came in second in a competitive Big 10 conference and had four NBA players.

The team featured Kenny Battle, Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill and Bardo, and is often touted as the best basketball team in Illinois history.

After his career in the NBA and overseas, Bardo worked as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, Big 10 Network and CBS.

As he returns to Carbondale for the first time since the release of his book, Bardo said he noticed that a lot has changed in the town since the ‘70s and ‘80s.

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“Carbondale is a much different town from when I was growing up,” Bardo said. “There’s more dangerous activity for kids to be involved in. I’m not sure the community is quite as close knit as it used to be.”

With Carbondale athletics not being as successful as in previous decades and this increased danger, Bardo said the Boys and Girls Club is a great force for good for children and teens within the city.

“Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club let these kids know they matter, that people care about them,” he said. “As adults, we sometimes take that for granted. Them coming in and showing kids that they’re valued is tremendous. I think they’ve helped decades and generations of kids feel much better about who they are.”

Randy Osborne, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, said he has a mutual respect for Bardo.

He said the donation from Bardo’s book sales is excellent and will go to providing after school programs for more than 80 children. He said he admires the example Bardo sets for those with dreams of being a professional athlete.

“A lot of kids want to be professional basketball players and sometimes they don’t think beyond that,” Osborne said. “It’s important for them to meet somebody who had a lot of skill and success in basketball but was able to look beyond that and fulfill their talents in other areas. It gives them a little reality passed being an NBA star.”

Bardo said he is proud of his off-the-court accomplishments as well as helping bring Carbondale to prominence through his success.

Bardo has made appearances across the state and at 6 p.m. Thursday evening will be at the Pinckneyville Public Library and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday will be at the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club.

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