April 19 Illinois basketball chat

April 19 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 12:30pm

How did Brad Underwood go about filling out his first staff? Who will the Illini add to the 2017-18 roster? When do offseason workouts begin? When does the schedule for next season come out? Beat writer Scott Richey is here to answer any and all of your questions in his weekly chat, which tips off at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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Good afternoon everybody and welcome back to the continuing offseason edition of the Illinois basketball chat. Plenty of questions waiting for me, so let's jump right in ... 

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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Our first question comes from Twitter:

Rick Smith‏ (@crs3080) 
How are DJ and AJ working out and what part will they play in underwood's offense?

Really still too early to tell on how the returning Illini are faring under Brad Underwood mainly because the new coaching staff has had limited time with the team in the gym. A positive tweet from Aaron Jordan's dad, however, is a good sign.

Underwood (most likely) will primarily run a four-out, one-in system. That means there's playing time available at several guard/wing positions. In fact, there's less need for a traditional 4, so maybe D.J. Williams could snag some minutes there. The bottom line is, a change in coaching staff and system and style gives guys like Williams and Jordan a shot at a fresh start after they didn't get much playing time under John Groce.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Scott -

I read your article on Orlando Antigua (Monday) around two lowlights on the NCAA investigation into alleged academic fraud at South FL and disappointing W-L record there.  Could you shed a little more info. about what happened with the academic fraud? (while protecting the integrity of the continuing investigation) Other than Underwood knowing Antigua in other roles at other universiities (mainly in a recruiting capacity), what in the vetting process that gave both Whitman and Underwood peace of mind and confidence in hiring Antigua? (other than being an elite recruiter and generally as good character)

Thanks!

 

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

I've done my fair share of researching to try and find out what exactly has been alleged at South Florida. There aren't a ton of details out there other than the NCAA is investigating an alleged academic fraud that involved players that were currently on the roster. The investigation of the investigation prompted an immediate resignation from assistant coach Oliver Antigua, Orlando Antigua's younger brother. That's about it.

Underwood didn't share his vetting process with me when we met last week. Clearly, though, both he and Josh Whitman were comfortable with the results. Underwood stressed his knowing Antigua personally (as more than just a guy he'd say hi to on the recruiting trail) played a key role.

Different parts of the Illinois fan base has both condemned and championed Antigua's hiring. Illinois is rolling the dice a bit, sure, but risk and reward come hand in hand in many ventures.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Scott -

I understand where Underwood comes from, but, at the same time, he needs to be careful as he stated recently, " We don't have to beg anybody to come here," citing the basketball program being the country's 11th winningest program overall.

Isn't recruiting a form of begging? Or Isn't begging a form of recruiting? We all know that the Illini basketball program has been down a good number of years.  It takes both begging/recuiting to put Illinois back on the map along with good coaching. Kids are not so inspired by history long ago, and more interested in getting into the NBA and/or being part of elite winning programs, regardless of what happened 10-15-20 years ago when the Illini reached elite stage back then.

Furthermore, is it really necessary for Underwood to mention of surrounding himself with smarter people? While probably true in leadership/organizational circles, it is perhaps best to leave unsaid or reword differently so not to get into the 'trap' later on. This is almost getting into Weber-speak, not exactly media savvy.

But what is most important is what is/will be done on the basketball court consistently.

Thoughts?

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

I see recruiting as more of a sell job than begging. Underwood is selling his vision for what Illinois can be. What he apparently wants are players that buy into that vision and, maybe even more than that, share in that vision. The "beg" comment is a strong statement for Underwood to make, but it shows he's pretty confident in what he can do as a coach. 

As for your second point, maybe using "smart" rather than "smarter" would have been the way to go, but that's getting into semantics. I think in anything you do (not just building a basketball coaching staff) you want to surround yourself with the best possible people. Underwood feels he's done that.

 

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Scott -

Where will Tom Crean end up? Thought he might be a candidate to replace Steve Fisher at SDSU?!?!

Thanks!

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

At this point, I'd say Tom Crean won't end up anywhere and will take a season away from coaching. There simply aren't jobs left that would make since for him to take. The open D-I jobs right now include Florida A&M, Grambling, Coppin State and Presbyterian. Oral Roberts has an interim coach. 

Crean's not going to any of those schools. Steve Fisher's replacement was pretty well decided before he even retired. Brian Dutcher was the coach in waiting, having not only helped recruit the Fab Five at Michigan but spend 18 seasons at San Diego State with Fisher.

Maybe Creans ends up as a TV analyst. Lots of people have mentioned it, but he was good on The Vertical's live draft coverage last June.

 

BrianAn wrote on April 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Is there a copy of Underwood's contract online ?

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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BrianAn,

The last I heard, Brad Underwood's contract had yet to be 100 percent finalized and, thus, is still unavailable. But since he's a coach at a public university, his contract will be public record. You could get a copy of your own if you wanted with a FOIA request.

Lars wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

For most games it seems like there is no need for a true center in college basketball and so Finke or Black plus wings/guards would be an effective lineup.  But the teams in the Final Four, all had multiple bigs that played big (even if they also could swing out and hit the 3).  It seems like Illinois hasn't recruited up a lineup for elite performance in years.  So what, given his assistants and performance at OKST and SFA, do you think Underwoods ideal type of lineup/roster would look like?

 

 

 

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Lars,

Brad Underwood didn't have "big" teams at Stephen F. Austin or Oklahoma State, but three of those four seasons his team ranked in the top 15 in offensive rebounding percentage. Oklahoma State ranked fourth this past season. So, an Underwood team can be effective in the post in that regard without a bunch of bruisers.

I'd say a typical Underwood roster would be more guard heavy considering he typically plays a four-out, one-in style. More minutes for guards in that system. 

But I think if a team is going to compete for a national title (maybe even just a Big Ten title) it needs a couple versatile bigs. Some guys with size (height and strength) that can control the paint but also step out to 15-pluis feet if necessary and still be successful. Position-less basketball is the wave of the (pretty near) future.

Honeywood wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Thank you again for doing such a great job every week.

It looks as though Brad Underwood is casting a wide net by hiring Antigua and pursuing guys like Bragg and Johnson. Johnson in particular seems like a bit of a unicorn (immediately available with two years of eligibility and a history of productivity in a tough conference). I like the strategy.

Has Illinois in any way been connected to Zack Dawson and/or Latravian Glover? I know they signed with OSU and Underwood before, but I haven't heard anything since.

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Honeywood,

Cam Johnson is indeed the unicorn of grad transfers. The fact he has two years of eligibility remaining and can put them to use right away is the reason basically half the power six teams in the country are interested. Plus, he's a 6-foot-8 guard. Lots of opportunity for mismatches there.

Since Brad Underwood left for Illinois, Zack Dawson has since reaffirmed his commitment to Oklahoma State. Dawson and high school teammate Latravian Glover were both recruited by Mike Boynton, who got a promotion to replace Underwood in Stillwater. I'd say neither South Miami HS product trades in orange and black for orange and blue.

Gregg G wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

I know his time with them has been very limited but have you received any early feedback from Brad Underwood on his evaluation of players currently on the roster and how they fit into his system? 

 

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Gregg G,

The timing of my sit down with Brad Underwood (basically the time I could get) happened to be right before his first round of workouts with the team. They were back in the gym yesterday for more. 

Underwood did get a chance to see Illinois play in its final two NIT games and mentioned he liked what he saw. Malcolm Hill was the Illini's leader through all that, of course, but Underwood did mention the five guys that will return with the most experience (Black, Coleman-Lands, Finke, Lucas and Nichols).

inara wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

 

I thought that NCAA rules prohibit the hiring of a family member of a sport recruit within a year of a commitment.   So, how did Missouri dance around this ruling with the hiring of Tilmon's father?

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Inara,

If Missouri hired Jeremiah Tilmon's father, it's news to me. Cuonzo Martin did, however, hire Michael Porter Sr., father to Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017. And that's perfectly legal. It's happened to the Porter family twice now in the last two seasons, first at Washington and now Missouri. 

Teams can hire a prospective recruit's high school coach, AAU coach or even a family member as long as that person is placed in a coaching role (not support staff). That's been happening for quite a while. Case in point, Larry Brown hiring Danny Manning's dad at Kansas in 1983 and then Manning joining the Jayhawks the next season.

 

michael schieffer wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Who on Brad's staff will be the biggest recruiting person going forward

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Michael,

All of them? Brad Underwood has kept one and added two assistants that are pretty good on the recruiting trail. If I had to pick one, I'd say Orlando Antigua. That hire was made in an attempt to get a national recruiter on the coaching staff and open some doors that Illinois possibly couldn't get in before.

Chin Coleman should help in Chicago, too. That's important.

Then there's Jamall Walker and his already established relationship between prospective recruits and Illinois and ties to the St. Louis area. Illinois could well go 0 for 4 on the top Metro East talent in the 2017 class (Mark Smith is the last hope), but there's plenty of talent in St. Louis and on the Illinois side of the river moving forward.

Anonymous User wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Wbb question.. I saw freshman Sarah Overcash is transferring and incoming freshmen Channise Lewis asked for her release. Do you think there will be any others leaving with the coaching changes? 

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Anonymous,

Considering the number of transfers in college basketball these days I wouldn't be surprised by anything. However, Nancy Fahey keeping both LaKale Malone and Tianna Kirkland on staff could keep the departures to a minimum. The current players have a good connection with those two.

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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Last question will come from Twitter, too:

jimmy christopher‏ (@illinistones)
define success in Underwood's first year.

Anything now would be a guess. Four open scholarships means the team could be markedly different even a month from now. As things stand at the moment, I'd say a successful first season would be Illinois playing with a consistent identity from the first game to the last, a better than .500 overall record and the promise of more success down the line.

Small steps first.

Scott Richey wrote on April 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm
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That's it for today's chat. Another strong offseason effort from all involved. Thanks to everybody that asked questions or just followed along. We'll do it again next week. Same time, same place.

Until then, enjoy the week!