CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis Club hosted the Illinois men’s basketball year end banquet for decades but a COVID-19 pause and with high turnover on college basketball rosters after the season, the event has now moved to a preseason tip-off dinner. Despite the season still two months away, more than 300 fans showed up Tuesday night at the iHotel to see and hear from this year’s team.

“That’s what makes this program so elite, that’s what makes this program so special is the community,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “This is great for our players to understand what the Kiwanis are all about, what they do for our youth, how fortunate they are and here we are in late August and we’ve got 300-plus here tonight so great turnout and it makes you feel great knowing your program means so much.”

Underwood’s team just started fall workouts, with the first official practice set for Sept. 26. One player is still not on campus, with Zacharie Perrin still waiting to officially join the team.

“It’s out of our hands,” Underwood said, citing The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA.

The now sixth-year head coach added they are still practicing at State Farm Center but should be able to move into the renovated Ubben Basketball Complex in the next few weeks.