Fan favorite returns to Hilton

It’s been more than a decade since Dedric Willoughby heard the cheers from inside Hilton Coliseum.

The sharpshooting Iowa State guard returned Saturday, honored as one of 15 players on the school’s All-Century team.  He was not in attendance at last year’s big celebration, but got his due at halftime of ISU’s game against Kansas State.

Willoughby’s wife, Vonda, and 7-year-old daughter took it all in with him.

“I was telling my wife I hope I don’t cry,” he said. “I’m not a real emotional guy, but I hope I don’t shed a tear. I love this place. I’m sorry it took me so long to come back.”

Willoughby, who now manages a seafood restaurant in suburban Atlanta, led the Cyclones to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances from 1995-97. He was a first-team all-conference selection and team MVP both seasons and still holds school records for 3-pointers in a season (102) and a single game (9).

He played 25 career games in the NBA, with the Chicago Bulls and former ISU coach Tim Floyd during the 1999-00 season.

His family of course knew he played basketball professionally. What they didn’t know is how beloved Willoughby is here in Ames.

“The biggest thing about (Saturday) was getting my wife and daughter to get to know this side of me, that i played basketball at this level,” he said.  “They don’t know me as a basketball player.”

Willoughby left town immediately following ISU’s last-second NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

He has not completed his degree, but says he is taking steps to do so.

Willoughby, 34, looks to be in good shape and plays three to four times a week. He said he still bombs away from long distance.

His professional hoops career is over.

“I don’t think i have it in me. I like where I am at right now as far as my family and things,” Willoughby said.

He spoke to the current group of Cyclones Saturday during the team’s pre-game shootaround. His message: appreciate the people who come out to support you. The fan base at ISU is special. 

 “I told the guys to give 110 percent, because this place is going to give you 11o percent. Leave it all out there,” Willoughby said.

He does what he can to keep up with his old team.

“I’ve heard about the Brackins kid and been hearing real good things about him. He’s killin’. He’s a real humble guy, too. Real soft spoken. Reminds me of myself.”

Ahhhh, right.

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