CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Normally you’re cheering on your favorite Illinois basketball players on campus, but now, some athletes are focusing on helping the community off the court.

On Friday, five women’s basketball players connected with many kids at the Champaign Public Library. It’s all with the help of Illini Guardians. It’s a group that supports U of I athletes and gets them connected to people in the community. Friday’s an example of the newest way they’re doing just that.

“I want to get my turn on the hoop. Right when the kids got here I lost my turn, but I’m really excited to play with them on that,” Brynn Shoup-Hill, Illinois Women’s Basketball forward, said.

That’s exactly how Shoup-Hill and her teammates spent their afternoons. She said when growing up, she always admired athletes and now, the tables have turned.

“It’s just great being that player for little kids too,” Shoup-Hill said.

Adalia McKenzie, Illinois Guard, is involved with different groups that dedicate their time to helping the community.

“A lot of the things that we do is for the youth, it’s not for us, it’s about the bigger picture,” McKenzie said.

Some players are teaming up with the library and Illini Guardians to make that bigger picture come to life.

“I see it as an ecosystem,” Bob Ballsrud, a Guardians co-founder, said. “Fans want to support the student-athletes through the Guardians. They are making contributions to Illini Guardians, then the Guardians are helping to find opportunities for the student-athletes to give back to the community.”

One of those community members is sixth grader Gia Mennely.

“I play basketball at school and I was on the girl’s team. I think it was really good because I got some advice from the guard,” Mennely said. “She told me to try to stay fit, work out sometimes, work on your dribbling and every once in a while work on your shooting.”

Mennely said it was like a dream come true, and McKenzie hopes these connections stay with the kids moving forward.

“I know we’re just playing games and stuff, but if I see a kid want to give up, I just say ‘hey, don’t give up. Keep going you can eventually get it.’,” McKenzie said. “This is what I love to do. I love being able to impact and hang with them.”

Illini Guardians hope to keep organizing events like this one and also get other Illinois Athletes involved.