May 16 Illinois basketball chat

May 16 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - 6:30pm

The spring signing period ends Wednesday, and Illinois still has a pair of scholarships open for the 2018-19 season. But one won't go to Francis Okoro after the Normal West big man committed to Oregon late Monday night. Who will Brad Underwood turn to next? What 2019, 2020 and 2021 prospects performed well this weekend in Atlanta on the EYBL circuit? When do the Illini gather for summer workouts? Beat writer Scott Richey will answer any and all Illinois basketball questions in his weekly chat, set this week for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Good evening everybody. Thanks for waiting a few extra hours for this week's chat. Between being asked to speak at a Champaign Lions Club meeting to some interviews with the Parkland men's golf team and Wednesday Sports Talk responsibilities, my afternoon was pretty full.

Several questions already in the hopper for me, though, so let's get to it ... 

Burt 65 wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

My question is, Why won't these kids from Chicago come to Illinois?  I know if they would we would be that glamour school such as Duke, Kentucky,and etc. etc... I know they want the exposure and what nots but geez do as Ayo did and follow suit make us the U of I national champs year end year out.  I love what coach Underwood is trying to achieve and I believe he will do it but he can't win on his own.  Thanks

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Burt,

A winning program is important to some recruits. Illinois hasn't been that — consistently — in more than a decade. Plus, some players from Illinois want to experience new things and get out of the state. Yes, Illinois could put together a strong program by keeping the best players in the state home, but that's just not a realistic goal. One top player? Maybe two? That's more realistic given the state of the program and the fact some players are sold on going elsewhere.

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Hey Scott,

One look at the Nike Bball digs at Oregon, goodbye cornfields for Okoro. `18 or `19, does Okoro play with Bol or back him up?

Barring a surprise commit today, any bigs leaning Illini or will the staff be able to "coach up" the 3 bigs on the team?

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon,

Francis Okoro could play with Bol Bol given the latter's ability to stretch the floor even at 7-foot-2, but I don't know if it will happen. Oregon has a pretty good frontcourt and the ability to go "small" by using the more athletic Louis King (who's 6-8 but more a wing) at the 4. We'll see how Okoro truly fits with the Ducks.

There really isn't a 2018 big man leaning Illinois' way. Parker Braun would be the closest to that, but he's got other offers. The onus might fall on the Illini coaching staff to try and get the most out of Greg Eboigbodin, Samba Kane and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. There's not a lot of frontcourt depth, so those guys will have to play and produce for Illinois to be successful. It's a lot to ask of a group of young players. It's an obvious statement, but the Illini frontcourt is the biggest question mark of the 2018-19 season.

IL crush1 wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Do you know if IL has reached out to Ike Obiagu, who has decided to transfer from FSU.  Seems like a nice option for front court help at this point, considering there aren’t many 7 footers available.

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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IL crush1,

To my knowledge, Illinois has not reached out to Ike Obiagu. I'm not sure that's a path to pursue even though he showed himself as a good shot blocker last year at Florida State. The Illini need help now, and Obiagu wouldn't be able to provide that given he has to sit out a year.

I've seen reports that Seton Hall, Gonzaga, Baylor, Texas A&M, Georgia and Auburn have all reached out. Obiagu clearly has high major potential, but I don't know that Illinois would get involved.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Scott, thanks for the chats.  We finally have a player that can “man the middle.”  A real rim protector in Samba Kane.  Remember how often opponents would score in the low post via drive or shot last year?  Can Samba defend the post for us and make an impact?

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Elmer,

On paper, Samba Kane has everything you'd want in a rim protector except for the level of strength some time in the weight room with Adam Fletcher will help provide. He's a 7-footer (or at least almost) with about a 7-5 wingspan, and he has some real athleticism. It's not all just height. 

The question is how effective will he be as a rim protector in college basketball — especially in the Big Ten. The potential is there. How quickly Illinois is able to tap that potential could go a long way in the win-loss column next season.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Scott, if you were Francis Okoro and you narrowed your choices down to Illinois, Oregon and Purdue (just as he did)- which school would you choose?  Consider factors such as exposure, playing time, fit with particular systems, coaching, etc.  Bias aside, I am truly wondering if he made the right choice for him.

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Elmer B., 

Francis Okoro believes he made the right choice in picking Oregon. That's really all that matters. Now, to your question.

If I had those teams as a final three, I'm not sure I wouldn't make the same choice, and if not Oregon maybe Purdue. I'm sure I'll incite some Illinois fans with that response, but at least let me go into why. Oregon is the Nike school. That has appeal. So does the Ducks' recent success with five NCAA tournament appearnaces (including a Sweet 16, an Elite 8 and a Final 4) in the last six years. Dana Altman is recognized as a good coach, and there's playing time to be had even if there would have been more at Illinois. Winning is important. Illinois hasn't done as much.

Then there's Purdue, which has a recent track record of developing big men — something Illinois can't claim yet with Brad Underwood — and similar type success with 10 NCAA tournament appearances in the last 12 years under Matt Painter.

Just my thoughts ...

Elmer B Fudd wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Trent Frazier aside, I expect Kipper Nichols a star in the making and to have a substantial impact on next years team.  What are your thoughts?  Could you see both him and Tevian Jones starting at the 4 and 3 respectively?

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Elmer B Fudd,

Kipper Nichols not only can make an impact next season for Illinois, but he's going to have to make an impact for the Illini to be successful. Nichols has all the tools. The 2018-19 season has to be about putting them all together on a consistent basis. That was his struggle last year — some super high moments and plenty at the other end of the spectrum.

In an ideal situation, Nichols would play more 3 than 4. I don't know that the 2018-19 roster will fall under that category. Illinois' thin frontcourt might mean more time for Nichols at the 4, which would open up the 3 for Tevian Jones. That's honestly a pairing I like even if Nichols would give up something defensively against bigger post players.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Considering their short tenure and minimal history at Illinois, I think this coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of recruiting for 2017 and 2018.  A top 20 recruiting class for 2018 is just awesome.  Your thoughts?

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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Elm,

Depsite missing out on Francis Okoro (who still only might reclassify even though that's the plan), I'd say Illinois put together a good 2018 class. Signing Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones is a nice 1-2 at the top, and I think Alan Griffin could turn into a steal. But the class is still incomplete unless Brad Underwood simply decides to roll over the two open scholarships, and while the graduate transfer market isn't great for bigs I think Illinois would benefit from having a veteran presence there. I can understand why Underwood didn't pull the trigger on somebody, though. Not a lot of options, and the best ones were all off the board pretty quickly.

Blakester wrote on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Scotty! This recuiting has been a desert for Underwood and company trying to find an oasis like a camel seeking water. It's the same thing trying to find a difference maker on the trail to speed things up. Which realistic targets will help the Illini front court in 2018 and beyond as long as they provide leadership, good post scoring and excellent defense to keep up in the upper echon of the Big Ten? Also, Lovie and squad have struck out with one of their targets from St Louis and miss the cut with one other from downstate Illinois. How can Lovie and crew get back on their feet to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten pack with Ohio State, Michgan, Wisconsin being the alphas? Peace Out!

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm
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Blakester!

I should probably point out Illinois did get a five-star guard in Ayo Dosunmu and a four-star wing in Tevian Jones, and Rivals has the Illini with the No. 17 class in the country. I'd say that means 2018 recruiting wasn't exactly desert-like. At this point, the only realistic target is Parker Braun, with crystal balls coming up Illini in the last 24 hours. How much would he help in 2018-19? Tough to say. Some because he's another big man where depth is needed, but he could stand a year in the weight room.

Like Brad Underwood, Lovie Smith is not going to get every player he offers. Not winding up in Jirehl Brock's final list is rough. So is losing Jason Bargy to Minnesota. How Illinois is able to continue to build this 2019 class after a good start with Marquez Beason and Isaiah Williams will be key. Can't lose that momentum. Winning a few more games this fall won't hurt. The Illini have to be able to show they're turning the corner and competing.

Bwp5p wrote on May 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm

Yo Scott.........why is it doomsday in Illini land because we missed another "probable/possible" One and Done? Seems to me we have a ton of good talent and atleticism to throw at teams.....and run them ragged.

Isn't that what the Coach really wants? I realize a Monster on the Glass is a bonus..........but..........I'm still optomistic we'll be pretty competetive this season! We'll be renewing our Season Tickets!

Go Illini

Bruce

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm
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Bruce,

I would say some Illinois fans have just been beaten down by the lack of success in the program. Any missed opportunity to potentially rise from that low place is seen as a failure. That's not taking into account, like I mentioned in my last response, that the 2018 class is already pretty good. Would Francis Okoro have helped? Yes. Is he the end all, be all of Illinois basketball? No, probably not.

The 2018-19 roster — even with those two open scholarships available — is looking like the kind of team Brad Underwood wants. Size, length, athleticism and good passing across the board at all positions. How that translates on the court we'll all find out in about six months.

Scott Richey wrote on May 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm
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That's all for this week's chat. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions or simply followed along. Both are, as always, much appreciated. The chat should return to its regular date and time — 12:30 p.m. Wednesday — next week.

Until then, enjoy the rest of this one!

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