May 17 Illinois basketball chat

May 17 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 12:30pm

What does Jeremiah Tilmon landing at Missouri add to this year's Braggin' Rights game? Who will man the post for Brad Underwood this upcoming season? What other roster additions will Underwood make before the season? When do Mark Smith, Da'Monte Williams and Trent Frazier arrive this summer at Illinois? Beat writer Scott Richey will take your question on any of these topics and more during his weekly 12:30 p.m. chat on Wednesday. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Sort of a slow week for Illinois basketball so far unless you consider Jeremiah Tilmon signing with Missouri big news. Honestly, that was more when than if once he got his release from Illinois. 

Of course, just typing "sort of slow week" about Illinois means I've just jinxed myself. But not really. I just expect some news of some sort to happen. Still a few days this week for something to happen.

Until that happens, though, let's get this chat going ...

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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Going to start today's chat with a question this morning from Twitter.

From Rick (@crs3080)
Are we going to see a 9 man team this year cuz no one is signing with our BELOVED ILLINI?  Selective is one thing but there is NO movement


Technically, Illinois, based on player movement thus far, will have 14 players for the 2017-18 season. That total includes walk-ons Cameron Liss, Clayton Jones, Cameron Liss, Samson Oladimeji and Tyler Underwood.

But I would expect Brad Underwood to use some number of his remaining open scholarships. It does seem like prospective targets are choosing anywhere but Illinois at the moment, but maybe that changes. Neither Mark Alstork nor Akoy Agau, who both visited Illinois last week, have picked a grad transfer destination. Illinois has a lot to offer both with playing time being No. 1 on that list.

John Cheng wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Hey Scott,

Who would you pick out of the following and why?

1) Mark Smith or Jordan Goodwin


2) Talen Horton Tucker or Tim Finke



Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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John Cheng,

This is quite the question. I'm going to try and just answer it without thinking too much. First instinct. (Later edit: harder to do than say)

1) I'm tempted to pick Jordan Goodwin for his abilities on the defensive end and his single-minded focus on scrapping and battling for everything on the court, but I'm going to take the perhaps riskier pick and go with Mark Smith. Goodwin has proven he can compete at an elite level playing last year in the EYBL. Smith has that same potential, and I think Smith now would have been able to hang with the nation's elite like Goodwin did last spring and summer. Plus, Smith is a statistically better three-point shooter. That matters in this era of basketball.

2) Both Talen Horton-Tucker and Tim Finke are sort of Swiss Army knife type players. Just capable of doing it all. If I were building a roster and could only have one wing of the two, I'd be tempted to flip a coin and be happy either way. Based on potential for growth, if I had to pick one, I'd go with Horton-Tucker as of 12:45 p.m. on May 17, 2017. I've been impressed by his passing in the EYBL this spring and he has some sneaky athleticism. 

Anonymous User wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

We need a big man for 2017.

Who are the best prospects at this point?

How about big men for 2018?


Chris in SF

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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There's basically one big man still on the board for 2017 that I know Illinois is involved with, and that's Georgetown grad transfer Akoy Agau. His per game averages last season with the Hoyas don't knock your socks off, obviously, but he got limited playing time. His per 40 minute numbers were pretty good. He'd clearly fill a need at Illinois. Maybe there's somebody else out there in 2017, but options are slim.

As far as the Class of 2018, there are several more targets. The best, of course, would be Silvio De Sousa and Simi Shittu. They're both five-star recruits. Illinois will have competition to say the least. A few other names to keep in mind are Darius Days, Morris Udeze, Amadou Sow and Colin Castleton. Days, who has blown up this spring (Kansas offer) could probably go 3/4, Udeze and Sow are more 4/5 types and Castleton is a stretch 4/5.

Dyslexia Untied wrote on May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Hi Scott

Just wanted to get your opinion. There have not been many high major teams I can think of that had success without height at the center (Notre Dame last year and Pittsburgh with DeJuan Blair). I know Underwood's system is much more guard-oriented, but without a true rim protector on the team this year I am very skeptical of their chances of making the NCAA tournament. Just wanted to get your opinions on how this team will do without that size this year unless Obadiah Toppin or a graduate transfer ie Dwight Coleby or the most recent big man visit last week join the roster.



Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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Dyslexia Untied,

I think Illinois can be successful with Brad Underwood's scheme because it does rely on guards and Illinois has several of them. Giving Trent Frazier and Mark Smith opportunities like Jawun Evans got last season at Oklahoma State could be interesting.

Any success, however, will be tempered by two things. One, of course, is zero post depth. Maybe Illinois gets lucky and Leron Black and Michael Finke are available for every minute of every game. By chance they aren't, the Illini would be in some trouble. The other is the fact Malcolm Hill did so much for this team the past two seasons and is no longer around. That almost could be more concerning than the post depth issue. Someone or someones (i.e. Jalen Coleman-Lands, Kipper Nichols, Smith, etc.) are going to have to raise their level of play.

As an aside, Obadiah Toppin is going to Dayton, so he's out of the picture. Akoy Agau hasn't picked a destination yet and Dwight Coleby just hit the market, so maybe Illinois gets some help there. Adding Mark Alstork (for that Malcolm Hill role) wouldn't hurt either.

Anonymous User wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

I guess I am going to make a statement more than ask a question.  Now that Tilmon has made his choice and it has been reported, can we please stop talking about him?  Let's hear about the kids that are committed to Illinois and about the ones that are high on Coach Underwood's want list.  Tilmon is history now so let's move on.

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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We could stop mentioning Jeremiah Tilmon and writing about the one-time Illinois signee. I sort of expect we won't if just for the fact he will be THE story (or at least one of the big ones) of this year's Braggin' Rights game.

But rest assured, as soon as there's a commitment from someone to Illinois we'll have something.

Big Dave wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

It's a tough list to compile because Illinois has struggled for decades in recruiting bigs, but who are your top five Illini big men (in order) since the 1970's? Now think about this year's roster. Scary thought.

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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Big Dave,

I risk leaving someone out of my top five Illini big men since the 1970s (and will have to go partly on historical data given I was born during the time span you've given men), but here goes nothing. The top guy on my list was pretty easy.

1. Deon Thomas

2. Nick Weatherspoon

3. Brian Cook

4. James Augustine

5. Efrem Winters

And, yeah, I'd say Illinois doesn't have one of those guys on this year's roster.

Gregg G wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Where is Da'Monte Williams in his rehab process and does it look like he will be ready to go full speed by the beginning of the season?

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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Gregg G,

The latest news about Da'Monte Williams came from Brad Underwood earlier this month. Williams was still not cleared to do any running as of a couple weeks ago, but Underwood said there continued to be positive news about Williams' recovery. The latest was developing strength around Williams' surgically-repaired knee.

I'd say there's a chance Williams could be full speed by the beginning of the season, but with ACL tears and knee surgeries there are no guarantees.

Scott Richey wrote on May 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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Looks like that's all the questions this week. Thanks to everyone that submitted something or simply followed along. The chat will be back next week. Same time, same place.

Until then, enjoy the week!