Chicago, IL. — When in Illinois, naturally there is a trip to Chicago for an NBA game.

That’s the case for the Missouri State Bears who stopped by the United Center for a game on Monday.

But it wasn’t just any NBA game, it was the Chicago Bulls and the Charlotte Hornets. Playing for Chicago is Alize Johnson, the 50th pick in the 2018 draft out of Missouri State.

“I’m a Bulls fan and obviously having Alize play on the Bulls we thought it would be a good opportunity to support him,” Bears head coach Dana Ford said. “We were able to do that last night. He stopped by and saw the team again this morning. He’s a great ambassador for our program. Anything that we ask, the answer is always yes. I just feel like it’s the least we can do, to come by and watch him.”

The Bears are in Illinois ahead of the Missouri Valley Conference opener at Illinois State on Wednesday.

It’s the earliest a conference game has been played in the MVC history.

As is with most road trips, which the Bears have been experiencing for much of the past three weeks, it’s a chance for the group to become closer as teammates.

“Some of them, it was their first time attending an NBA game,” Bennington said. “Again, I think it’s another opportunity for our group to get closer and try to build a bond. We have a close-knit team, but you can never be too close. I’m sure that they felt like they needed an opportunity to spend some time together.”

After Wednesday’s game against Illinois State, the Bears will play at home against #12 BYU on Saturday.