June 7 Illinois basketball chat

June 7 Illinois basketball chat

Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 12:30pm

Part of Illinois' 2018 recruiting class will start arriving in Champaign this week. Ayo Dosunmu, of course, will still be in Colorado Springs working for a spot on the U.S. U18 National Team that will play later this month in the FIBA Americas Championship in Canada. Basketball season might still be four months away, but there's plenty happening with the Illini. Just not on the "add players to the 2018-19 roster" front. Multiple offers have gone out for 2019, 2020 and even 2021 prospects, but Illinois still has two open scholarships to work with and possible candidates headed elsewhere. Beat writer Scott Richey will take all your Illini basketball questions this week and any other Illinois athletics related queries you  might have in his 12:30 p.m. Thursday chat.

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for waiting an extra day for this week's chat. Early afternoon Wednesday was occupied with preparing for the media roundtable with Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman. We have plenty of coverage from that event already (read about it here and here and here) and more coming in Friday's News-Gazette.

Meanwhile, plenty of questions awaiting me, so let's get to it ...

wil wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

IS THERE STILL AN OPPORTUNITY FOR UNDERWOOD TO ADD A 5TH YEAR TRANSFER FOR THIS YEARS TEAM? WHO IS STILL AVAILABLE? HAVE ANY OF THESE PLAYERS VISITED OR ARE THEY MOST LIKELY HEADED ELSEWHERE?

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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Wil,

Is there still an opportunity? Sure. Illinois currently has two open scholarships, and not every graduate transfer has a new home. Finding the right grad transfer, of course, remains an issue. The list of available big men that might be able to contribute at the Big Ten level is even smaller now that Tennessee State's Christian Mekowulu has picked Texas A&M and UMass' Malik Hines chose McNeese State. There aren't a lot of real options left.

MikeM wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hey Scott. I have a 2019-20 roster question/philosophical debate, as I'm wont to do. I'll start with these assumptions (which are purely hypotheticals and not assumed probables or anything):

1. Ebo and Samba develop into a respectible big-man platoon that can handle all 40 minutes at center with efficient finishing at the rim and not much else offensively, but above-average rim protection and solid rebounding.

2. Illinois, per Jerry Meyer's Crystal Ball yesterday, lands Kahlil Whitney, but does NOT land E.J. Liddell.

3. Neither Euro big man on the roster- if they're still there- develop into rotation players by 2020.

Basically, how good do you feel about playing 2-3 wings alongside either Ebo or Samba at all times in the absense of a legit power forward? We'd have four wings (Whitney, Kipper, Griffin and Jones), at least a couple of which have the potential to be NBA prospects, who all have good size in the 6-5 to 6-7 range.

Especially with the dimensions Kipper and Whitney have, that's not giving up a ton of size to most teams at the 4. Or conversely, neither does it give up much quickness to smaller guards. And it's a rotation that seems in line not only with Underwood's preferred positionless nature, but also the way the NBA is trending. A look to this year's Final Four shows that the three legit teams that were in it (don't @ me, Loyola) surrounded one big man with an army of midsized shooters/slashers, none of which aside from maybe Eric Paschall could in any way be called a "power forward." (This could also be true of Loyola for all I know. I will not give them the dignity of checking on that.)

Do you think this is becoming a preferred method of roster-building given how it mirrors the NBA's style of play, or more making the best out of not having enough frontcourt depth? Because I'm borderline giddy about that rotation with the possibility of Whitney in it, which admittedly is as much about his individual talent as his position or body type. With the pursuit of Okoro and others, we know Underwood is still trying to add as much big man depth as he can, and with good reason, but I think a fleet of big, versatile wings surrounding one legit big is the way to go.

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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MikeM,

Basketball has definitely moved to a position-less nature, and if you look at the NBA playoffs there aren't too many traditional bigs getting much meaningful playing time. The idea of some versatile wings with size around one big man is basically the "ideal" way to build a rotation. That said, college basketball isn't quite to that stage yet. Traditional big men (particularly of the rim protecting kind) still have their place.

Brad Underwood, by virtue of having a super thin frontcourt, might end up closer to that "ideal" in the coming seasons. He is a position-less basketball proponent, and based on current roster construction he's going to have to play that way. Depending on who he's able to add in the 2019 class, that might hold true for future teams as well. 

Anonymous User wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

I've read on other sites that Georgi B. Is a possible redshirt or at most likely to get few minutes.  I was pretty impressed by the video I've seen. Him and Tevian are two players Ill. Hasn't had in a while, forwards who can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. What areas of Georgi's game does he need to improve on to get more playing time?

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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Anonymous,

Brad Underwood likes Giorgi Bezhanishvili's passing ability. That's big. Underwood values passing as much as he does anything. Take that and add in Illinois' depth issues in the frontcourt, and Bezhanishvili probably plays a decent amount this coming season simply because he'll have to.

Bezhanishvili could always improve his strength and athleticism. Those are the two major areas that can be addressed this summer. Given the fact he can extend his shooting range to the three-point line, improving his consistency there can only help.

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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Anonymous,

Brad Underwood likes Giorgi Bezhanishvili's passing ability. That's big. Underwood values passing as much as he does anything. Take that and add in Illinois' depth issues in the frontcourt, and Bezhanishvili probably plays a decent amount this coming season simply because he'll have to.

Bezhanishvili could always improve his strength and athleticism. Those are the two major areas that can be addressed this summer. Given the fact he can extend his shooting range to the three-point line, improving his consistency there can only help.

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hey Scott,

Did the Illini lose yet another recruit (Braun) to Mizzou?

Just for fun, pick a starting 5 for this Illini team.

 

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon,

Yeah, Illinois did lose Parker Braun to Missouri. The Kansas native opted to join the Tigers as a preferred walk-on instead of taking a scholarship offer from one of several high major programs. Family ties played a role in his decision, but it's still another recruiting miss for Brad Underwood and the Illini.

My starting five as of June 7 would be ...

G -- Ayo Dosunmu

G -- Trent Frazier

*G -- Tevian Jones

F -- Kipper Nichols

C -- Samba Kane

*Could see Aaron Jordan as third guard instead of Jones. Both will play.

RdBall 5 wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

On scale 1-10 Underwood’s chances of landing grad transfer for backcourt help?

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm
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RdBall,

Backcourt help? I'd give him a zero on adding a grad transfer there because Illinois doesn't need any more guards. That would have been easier, of course, given the number of available grad transfer guards that could play at the Big Ten level.

Fewer big men available as grad transfers, but I'll give Brad Underwood a 2-3 on that front simply because he has the scholarships to give and it could still happen. Not great odds, though.

IP Freely wrote on June 07, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Will we be able to defend the post?  Will we be able to score inside?

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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Mr. Freely,

Illinois could be able to guard the post. At this point, however, all those hopes rest on the still slim shoulders of 7-foot freshman Samba Kane. He's the best hope at this point. Can he? Sure, in theory. He's got the size and length and athleticism. Will he? Time will tell.

As far as scoring inside, Illinois is probably going to have to get that from its guards and wings attacking the basket. The frontcourt is so thin and inexperienced I don't know what those players will be able to contribute on the offensive end.

B-man wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I recently read an article about Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors. It made the point that they track the number of passes per game and that Kerr is looking for at least 300 passes per game. That was such a schock to me that I immediately thought of the Illini and the passing game. The equivalent in the shorter college game would be 240 passes (if I did the math correctly). I have also read how Brad Underwood loves passing the basketball and does not want to see players "stopping" the ball movement.

Does Underwood have a number of passes per game he would like to see? If so, what is it? I don't think we could actually reach 240 passes per game because of the different talent level in college versus the NBA. What do you think a reasonable goal for passes per game for the Illini given Underwood's desire to see passing and ball movement?

Thanks!

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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B-man,

I don't know if Brad Underwood has a number of passes he'd like to see in a game. That's a good question and one I'll ask him. The 240 equivalent might be a little high given the differences in overall talent between college basketball and the NBA.

I would say whatever number of passes leads to an offense that can score effectively and efficiently (and let's be honest, a lot of points) is the right number. You can pass the ball a ton and still have bad offense if nobody can score (or you slow things way down). Aesthetically, I like passes that get you points. 

Guy Mann wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

We have already seen four players transfer out of the men's basketball program this spring: Black, Finke, Lucas and Smith.

There is now a prominent rumor that a fifth player will be leaving.

Is Eboigbodin transferring?

If so, why?

Scared Basketball Fan wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Scott -

Is there any truth that Brad Underwood is scaring off players off the team again and unable to fill the roster since he arrived at Illinois? Will his intensity as coach end up costing him his job in next 2-3 seasons?

Thank you

 

Kid Rock wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Scott,   Are you aware of any rumors making the rounds about Ebo leaving the program?  If so, that would suggest to me that a 5th yr big or 2018 recruit is in the works. Or both. With such a difficult schedule this coming season, I could see us being an improved team, but with a very similiar record as last year. Your thoughts?  Are there no Juco bigs worth looking at this year? Will Dima Zdor commit soon?  Thanks for your info.  

IP Freely wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Any truth to the rumors that GREG E is leaving the team.  If so, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?” (Vince LOMBARDI)

RdBall 5 wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Does Underwood have any 5th year transfers in mind?

Anyone on the current team transferring, if so can you comment?

Zdor news?

Bryan E DeJaynes wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Take a break Scott, you are working to hard!!! After you tell me what's up with Greg I. The scoop said he was told he could not do a interveiw with them. Have you heard anything ?  Does not sound good for him. And has any 5th year seniors appeared to be intersted in our Fighting Illini team?  Have a great day !!!

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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Everyone that asked about Greg Eboigbodin,

Well, it turns out pushing the chat one day gave you an answer. Greg Eboigbodin is in fact transferring from Illinois.

That thin Illinois frontcourt just got even thinner. It's literally just incoming freshmen Samba Kane and Giorgi Bezhanishvilli unless you want to counter Kipper Nichols. At this point, you  probably have to. It looks like Nichols is going to be playing a lot of minutes at the 4.

Eboigbodin's transfer gives Brad Underwood three scholarships to work with now, but a pretty empty pool of available players to add to the 2018-19 roster. The Illini remain in the picture for 2018 forward Dima Zdor, who is reportedly also considering Weber State, Siena, UMass, Austin Peay, and Jacksonville State. Illinois is the only high major team in that bunch, but who knows at this point how his recruitment will end.

So it's June, and the 2018-19 Illinois roster (at least up front) has more questions than answers. Plenty of work still to be done.

Scott Richey wrote on June 07, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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That's it for today's chat. Thanks to everybody that submitted a question or followed along. There's always news in the Illinois basketball offseason it seems.

The chat will take a week hiatus since I'll be out of the office next week. It will return on June 13. Until then everybody ...