He's a former NCAA player of the year, a former first overall pick in the NBA draft and a two-time world champion - but when 57-year-old Mark Aguirre walked into his high school alma mater, George Westinghouse College Prep in Chicago's East Garfield Park neighborhood, he was just another old guy.
"None of these kids know who I am," Aguirre said. "I can walk through the halls, they don’t know who I am. Just somebody’s dad, the way they see it."
But once his cover was blown, the school's current students listened closely to the message from one of its most famous graduates.
"My message is a simple one, and I think it helps. You've gotta touch somebody," Aguirre said. "On your day-to-day basis, there's somebody that if you touch them and encourage them, and then the next person touches somebody, and the next person - if you say a clean, clear, kind thing, it stretches out."
When Aguirre starred at Westinghouse, it was actually at a building next door to its current home. The new facility didn’t open until 2009, and when Aguirre walked around the new building, he was really impressed – but not for any reasons related to basketball or athletics.
"They have an engineering program – we never thought about having an engineering program," he said. "They have a nursing program. They have a whole, actual studio in here. That’s growth. That’s opportunity for our kids."
It was the opportunity to play for Ray Meyer at DePaul University that brought Aguirre to the United Center on Dec. 17. The Blue Demons' career scoring leader and his now-deceased coach were honored during the State Farm Chicago Legends tournament - another memory in a life that began on the city's West Side.
"I didn’t know I was going to be a pro, I didn’t know I was going to be a good college player, but I was enjoying Westinghouse," Aguirre said. "I was having fun and I was here learning to be a responsible student. I learned all those things here."