July 13 Ask the sports editor

July 13 Ask the sports editor

Thursday, July 13, 2017 - 2:00pm

When does the Big Ten hold its annual football media days? When does practice start for Lovie Smith's Illini? What Class of 2018 recruits are the Illini pursuing in football and basketball? Can Brad Underwood turn around Illinois? Sports editor Matt Daniels will answer any and all questions thrown his way at 2 p.m. on Thursday during his weekly chat. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Matt Daniels wrote on July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm
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Afternoon everyone.

Matt Daniels here on a muggy mid-July Thursday in Champaign-Urbana. 

It's the middle of summer, but that doesn't mean there's a lack of Illinois basketball and football news.

Brad Underwood addressed the media on Tuesday before he and the rest of his staff went out on the road for the first of three evaluation periods this month. Our beat writer, Scott Richey, was on hand at Ubben Basketball Complex to hear the latest from Underwood, which you can check out right here at IllinIHQ.com.

The start of football practice is less than three weeks away for Lovie Smith's program as the second-year coach gets ready for the 2017 seasons. Illinois will hold its media day on July 30 at Memorial Stadium (to be followed by an opportunity for fans to get autographs from Smith and current players before a movie is shown on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard) and before that, Smith, Malik Turner, Christian DiLauro and Jaylen Dunlap will descend upon Chicago on July 24-25 for the annual Big Ten Media Days.

Only one question in the hopper so far, but I'll keep this open until 2:30 before getting back to work on a few upcoming items that'll appear in the pages of The News-Gazette (and here on our website) in the next few days.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

Matt -

I see NG's header on sports page: 'Brad Underwood ... needed horses." I take that to imply that we do not have enough horses on the basketball team to win more than a share of games.  Who do you identify as the 'current horses' on the team?  Who do you consider future horses on the recruiting front?

Precisely, how do you define a horse? Is it just players who can run and play positionless ball? (meannig all players are expected to consistently pass, shoot, rebound, etc.)

Thanks!

Matt Daniels wrote on July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm
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Hey Illini Basketball Fan,

Thanks for the questions and thanks for stopping by IlliniHQ.com to see our bevy of work.

Going to tackle your last question first. I define a horse by an animal who eats hay and roams on a farm. They are typically ridden as well, most notably by jockeys.

All kidding aside, the Illinois basketball season is one that is destined to be filled with more questions than answers before Brad Underwood embarks upon his first season in charge of the Illini.

The departure of veteran leaders like Malcolm Hill, Tracy Abrams and Maverick Morgan, not to mention their productivity on the court, will leave a large void. 

Scoring has to come from somewhere, and big seasons are anticipated out of Leron Black and Michael Finke, along with Te'Jon Lucas, some of the few returnees that Illinois has. 

Unknowns await in what Mark Smith, Trent Frazier and Greg Eboigbodin might be able to contribute, along with what type of presence fifth-year transfer Mark Alstork will bring to the lineup.

Underwood has won in each of his first four seasons as a head coach at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State, taking each team to the NCAA tournament. 

With Illinois having missed out on the NCAA tournament every season since 2013, the expectation is to return there again in 2018, although this particular group may have to overachieve in order to find itself among the 68-team field next March.

Ayo Dosunmu, Tim Finke and Talen Horton-Tucker are three key in-state players in the Class of 2018, along with George Conditt, that Underwood and his staff have identified as potential future Illini, with Dosunmu taking top priority based on his position (point guard) and his skill set (Morgan Park product can fill up the stat sheet).

If Illinois is able to land 1-2 of those aforementioned players in the 2018 class, that'll bode well for the Illini's future. Underwood has shown in his first four months on the job he isn't afraid to cast his recruiting net far and wide in an effort to bring players he feels will benefit by playing in his system. 

Matt Daniels wrote on July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm
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Going to wrap up this week's chat. Before I do, want to wish a happy birthday today to my mom, who has always been supportive in my sports journalism endeavors and whose birthday always seems to fall right around the MLB All-Star Game.

Check out Friday's N-G for a look at Centennial football, the first of seven weekly features we will run on area teams leading up to the kickoff of the 2017 season on Aug 25 and come back Sunday for staff writer Scott Richey's exhaustive look at the past school year that was for Illinois athletics.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone and stay cool out there!