Oct. 4 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Oct. 4 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 12:30pm

It's that time of year. Practices are underway for the Illinois basketball team, with just more than a month until the season opener. At the same time, the Illini football and volleyball teams are getting into the thick of Big Ten action (thus far with divergent results from one another). Add in recruiting, and fall can get a bit hectic. On that front, Brad Underwood is still looking for its first 2018 commit, while Lovie Smith is trying to finalize his second recruiting class. What questions do you have concerning the Illini sports beat writer Scott Richey covers the closest? He'll answer all your questions in his weekly chat at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Only a couple minutes late getting started today as I caught myself from getting too deep into the Internet ether that is basketball recruiting. Sometimes it just drags you in.

Anyway, there's a handful of questions awaiting me — plus, obviously, the opportunity for more if anyone wants — so let's get to it ...

Big Dave wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm

It appears that the Illini may whiff on their initial recruiting targets. If that happens, do you see a possibility of them only taking one or two recruits this year and rolling over the other scholarships to next year? And, what is your best guess? Will Coach Underwood eventually be implicated in this recruiting scandal? 

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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Big Dave,

Let's say for argument's sake that all of the available scholarships are used for the 2018 class. I will add that Illinois has until next June, really, to add to its 2018 class. More than half of the 2017 class committed after the season was over.

In that hypothetical would still mean three scholarships — the ones currently being held by Michael Finke, Leron Black and Aaron Jordan —  would come open for the 2019 class. Adding three players in a class, to me, is a good number. It allows each wider position group to be address ... a guard (1/2), a wing (2/3/4) and a big (4/5). 

As for your other question, I realize fans want to have some kind of clarity on how the most recent — and ongoing, I would imagine, for some time — scandal in college basketball might affect Illinois. I can't provide that clarity. The people that can are all employed by the federal government as either FBI agents or U.S. attorneys. 

Do I expect more coaches and programs and shoe companies to be implicated? Yeah, that's probably a good bet. Who that might be — if it happens at all — isn't my place to speculate.

Jason L wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hey Scott,


How has Aaron Jordan looked this offseason and during practices? I feel like his name has never come up since Underwood has been coach

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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Jason L,

From things I heard over the summer and from talking with Aaron Jordan and others, it sounds like he had a good offseason. He has the potential to be a good fit in Brad Underwood's system as a 3-and-D wing. Realizing that potential is the thing. He hasn't shown he can do both consistently yet in his Illinois career, although he's been given limited opportunity to do so thus far. 

Gregg G wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm

With BU missing out on Conditt and Kisunas, who are the remaining bigs with interest in The Fighting Illini and of those, who do you feel would be on the top of BU's list?

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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Gregg G,

I can come up with three Class of 2018 bigs that currently have an open offer listed by either Rivals or Scout ...

Bryan Penn-Johnson, 7-0, Wasatch Academy (Utah)

Filip Petrusev, 6-10, Montverde Academy (Fla.)

Donatas Kupsas, 6-8, Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.)


Of those, Petrusev seems to have something of an unofficial final five that doesn't include Illinois. Tennessee is the leader apparently. Penn-Johnson still seems to be available for the Illini, however, and I honestly don't know much about Kupsas.

That said, Brad Underwood was able to add Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel in the spring/early summer for this season. So there's still time. New names will almost assuredly be added to the recruiting board after the three misses this week.

Honeywood wrote on October 04, 2017 at 12:10 pm


Thanks again for your continued great work. These chats help me follow my alma mater from Minneapolis. 

As I'm writing this, I just read Colin Castleton's commitment announcement to the University of Michigan. While this isn't surprising on its face, this coupled with George Conditt's also unsurprising commitment to Iowa State and Kisunas' commitment to Coach Ollie feel eerily similar to the prior coaching staff.

With all of the high profile recruits the Illini are pursuing and whiffing on, should we as fans be pumping the brakes on our excitement about recruiting until Coach Underwood has a year or two of winning under his belt? Perhaps that's the missing piece for basketball as could be for football.

On the football side, the Nebraska and South Florida games were both brutal. I have a recruiting question based on those games. What Junior College players are the Illini football program pursuing/offering for the 2018 cycle? This seems like a pragmatic time to get some more experienced players who can contribute immediately next season. Also, a second football question, what is the story with Dwayne Lawson and his future at Illinois (or lack thereof)? It seems like he would be potentially helpful, especially now.

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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Thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you're following along with Minnesota.

The excitement for 2018 recruiting among the Illinois fan base was probably intensified by the fact Brad Underwood was able to land Mark Smith last spring and beat out the blue bloods in the process before adding Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel in succession the next few months.

That said, there was the opportunity to do so. All three had open recruitments well after most of their fellow Class of 2017 recruits had wrapped theirs up. The 2018 class was always going to be Underwood's "first" even after all the work he did to shore up 2017. There's no "this is how my system works at Illinois" to sell to recruits. 

Of course, if Underwood is able to land Landers Nolley and Ayo Dosunmu in the next couple weeks, I would say fans will go right back to feeling excited — riding the roller coaster of emotions that is following recruiting.

As far as football recruiting goes, I can come up with one junior college player Illinois targeted as part of its 2018 recruitment. That was 6-foot-8, 330-pound offensive tackle Anthony McKinney (a Rockford area native) out of Iowa Western C.C. that ultimately committed to TCU. Lovie Smith and Co. aren't really pursuing junior college players. I'd say adding Del'Shawn Phillips and trying to get Dwayne Lawson were anomalies.

As far as Lawson goes, I'd say the chances he ends up at Illinois are slim to none — with an emphasis probably on none. That last I was aware, he was trying to finish his associate's degree at Garden City C.C. this fall. He's also redshirting this year because one year at Virginia Tech and another at Garden City used up the eligibility he'd have to compete at a junior college. 

Anonymous User wrote on October 04, 2017 at 1:10 pm


It's a bit discouraging to keep missing out on our top basketball recruiting targets.  Do you think the FBI/Lamont Evans news has had an impact on any of the decisions this week?  


Also, have you watched a practice and if so, how has Frazier looked?  Do you see him getting 20 minutes a game?

Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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I could see where Illinois going 0-for-3 on Class of 2018 big men this week would be discouraging to the fan base. But I wouldn't say the Illini missed out on their top recruiting targets. Ayo Dosunmu and Landers Nolley are still available. So is Talen Horton-Tucker. There's top options left. None of them are taller than 6-foot-7 (Nollley), but they're still available.

I can't say for certain whether the FBI investigation into college basketball, including former Brad Underwood assistant Lamont Evans, played any role in the recruitment decisions made this week. That said, I'm sure there's plenty of negative recruitment out there. It's always out there. This is just a new avenue to do it.

Trent Frazier looked fast. He's super quick. His three-point shot looked good, and he just kind of has a way of knifing to the basket for more close in scoring opportunities. I could see him playing a significant role this season.

And even though you didn't ask, I was also impressed by Da'Monte Williams a few days ago. I've seen him at the all engines firing level before. That's where he makes the most of his potential. Saturday's first practice definitely had some of that.


Scott Richey wrote on October 04, 2017 at 1:10 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat. Thanks to everybody that submitted questions or just followed along. Both are appreciated each week. Be on the lookout for all of our Illini football coverage the rest of this week, including Saturday's game at Iowa. Plenty in the print edition of The News-Gazette and right here at IlliniHQ.com. In fact, a video will be up shortly with former Illinois receiver Justin Hardee, who was at practice Tuesday night.

The chat, of course, returns next week. Same time, same place. Until then, enjoy the week!