March 27 Illinois basketball chat

March 27 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 12:30pm

The offseason continues for Illinois basketball, with rounding out the 2019-20 roster a top priority. The Illini's two commits — big men Kofi Cockburn and Antwan January — can't sign for another couple weeks when the spring signing period begins. That still leaves one scholarship currently open with two simultaneous pursuits (another shooter on the wing and an athletic power forward) needing some recruiting momentum. Who might the Illini add? Will they avoid transfers out, of which there are already more than 300 nationally?

Or maybe you have questions about Illinois baseball or softball? Beat writer Scott Richey took in one game of each (both wins) this past weekend for Dan Hartleb and Tyra Perry's squads. Perhaps you're more interested in spring football. Our everything Illini writer will spend the next few weeks covering Lovie Smith and Co., too. Plus he plans to jump back into volleyball with the first spring match this Saturday at Purdue.

In the meantime, Richey will answer any of your Illini questions in his weekly chat set at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Going to start this week's chat a little early since I didn't want to start working on something else and nearly forget about it (like I've done previously). Single-minded focus, you know? There's a handful of questions awaiting my answers (thanks in advance to everybody that submitted something), so let's just get to it.

Matt K wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Hi Scott,

Since the women's basketball writers don't have chats as far as I know, I'll ask you this, and submit it early so you have time to check.  For two years, a 6'3" player from Greece -- Nancy Panagiotopoulou Andritsopoulou (and we thought Bezhanishvili was hard to pronounce) -- has been on the team but hasn't played.  Her first season, I thought I heard she was injured; this year, I heard she wasn't eligible, which is hard to believe after all this time. What is her status? The team is adding a couple of talented guards, but it was already lacking in size and now loses Alex Wittinger.  Nancy P.A. could be an important part of restocking there.  Otherwise, we'll be really small when Mackenzie Blazek or Ali Andrews aren't in there, especially with Blazek as our only true inside player.

 

 

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Matt,

Sorry to say I don't have an answer for you. I've mostly lost touch with Illinois women's basketball other than following their results since I shifted beat writer responsibilties to men's basketball (plus football, volleyball, etc.), so I don't have an answer for why Nancy Panagiotopoulou didn't play this past season and I didn't hear back after reaching out to Illinois about her status either. If/when I do hear back on your question, I'll get an answer in next week's chat.

Anonymous User wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Which Big Ten prospects do you expect to leave for the NBA early?  I see Romeo Langford as the only sure thing with Ayo, Carsen Edwards, Bruno Fernando, Iggy Brazdeikis, and others up in the air.

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Anonymous,

Romeo Langford and Bruno Fernando are the only Big Ten players I've seen projected as first round picks (late lottery for both). If that holds, they're gone. Other early entrants, at least as things stand now, would have to take their chances on getting a guaranteed contract as a second round pick, which isn't a given but seems more likely these days. The two-way NBA/G League contracts have helped with that.

Nineteen second round picks in 2018 signed multi-year contracts with at least two years guaranteed. Purdue's Vince Edwards signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Houston Rockets, but he's stuck on their roster. Also, four players signed two-way deals, two signed domestic draft-and-stash G League deals and four were international draft-and-stash guys.

So there are options for second rounders. Pretty good ones, too. Current Big Ten players like Carsen Edwards (stock might not get much higher), Tyler Cook, Charles Matthews (already 22 years old) and Lamar Stevens might try that route. Freshmen like Ayo Dosunmu, Ignas Brazdeikis and Jalen Smith might be better served playing one more year of college and improving their draft stock to for sure first round status in 2020.

Anonymous User wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Are we sure Kofi Cockburn is going to start alongside Georgi B from day 1 next season? I know that Illinois absolutely needs more size especially in the Big Ten, but I feel like Kofi starting alongside Georgi may be a gradual process kind of like Trent and Ayo working things out in the backcourt..

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Anonymous,

No, I don't think you can be sure Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili could start alongside each other next season. For that to happen, Bezhanishvili has to put in some serious work on his jump shot. The framework is there, but if Bezhanishvili is going to play the 4 to Cockburn's 5 then he's got to be able to stretch the floor and/or consistently take and make shots from the high post. Not enough of the paint to go around if they both can only score consistently from around the basket.

I like that pairing together should Bezhanishvili become more of a stretch 4/5 combo, and I think he can do it. He's got a soft touch. Now he just needs to show it from 15 feet and beyond. The idea of those two alternating post up opportunities is certainly interesting (and probably not something the rest of the Big Ten would be thrilled with).

Zekiah Swamp wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Scott,  I would appreciate being provided the status of Anthony Higgs.

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Zekiah,

You and me both. Illinois kept Anthony Higgs' status fairly close to the vest the whole season. Brad Underwood will have his individual meetings with each player this coming week, so there might be some clarity on Higgs shortly. From the sound of things, I'd be surprised if he ever suits up for Illinois, but I suppose you never know about stuff like this until something becomes official.

Randy Stambaugh wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Are the Illini basketball looking at that sharp shooting guard from Evanston?

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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Randy,

I assume you're talking about Blake Peters? I saw him play in the 4A state tournament, and he was just ridiculous from three-point range in the semifinals against Rockford East. That said, he's just a sophomore and I've only seen limited information about his recruitment. He told Prep Hoops Illinois' Scott Burgess that Illinois did watch an open gym and he had some interest from Vanderbilt, South Dakota State and Valparaiso. The first of those two programs, though, need new head coaches after Vandy fired Bryce Drew and T.J. Otzelberger has apparently left South Dakota State for UNLV.

The Illini don't have a lot of offers out in the 2021 class, but seem to have their in-state focus on guys like Max Christie (Rolling Meadows), Ahamad Bynum (Simeon), Bryce Hopkins (Fenwick), Anthony Sayles Jr. (Niles Notre Dame) and Chris Hodges (Schaumburg)

IllinoisFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on March 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Hey Scott,

No one transfers, both bigs sign, who do you have starting? Off the pine for considerable mins? Some old news, watching the NCAA tourney, lotta Illinois players, seems like every team has one. In this chat I've seen comments on how BU yells at players, looks bad but Tom Izzo, who I like, gets a free ride from his berating his player during the tourney. Laugh it off, oh he loves us. I guess it's a Hall of Fame coaches pass? Speaking of HoF coaches, there is not a ref on THIS planet who would of called that obvious hook n hold on the Duke player on the Barrett put back rebound at the end of the UCF game. Coach K is a master at crybabing those officials. He had his sour milk face rollin' that entire game. Other coaches play that game with no results. Maybe TV Teddy Valentine would of slid across the floor callin' that one!

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 1:03 pm
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IllinoisFanSinceTheSpoon,

If I was the one making the decision on the starting lineup, I'd go with Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones as three locks. That's what I would consider the highest potential backcourt. The frontcourt isn't quite so easy to figure out. If Illinois is able to add a big, athletic stretch 4 grad transfer that can contribute, then I'd start him with either Giorgi Bezhanishvili or Kofi Cockburn at the 5. If there's no such grad transfer, then I'd start Bezhanishvili and Cockburn. Otherwise it's back to playing a guard at the 4 and fighting those same battles all over again.

Every NCAA tournament team might not have an Illinois native on its roster, but that number does seem awfully high. Lots of talent out there that's left the state and thrived elsewhere.

Would the perception of Brad Underwood you speak of change if he had seven Final Fours and a national title? Yeah, probably.

That two calls at the end of the Duke-UCF game went in the Blue Devils' favor probably shouldn't have been a surprise. Superstar programs and superstar players often times get the benefit of the doubt. But you could have called an offensive foul on Zion Williamson for lowering his shoulder on B.J. Taylor(?), and you definitely could have called a foul on R.J. Barrett on that offensive rebound.

Peter Pan wrote on March 27, 2019 at 1:03 pm

I noticed we offered Olivier Robinson Nkamhoua, but haven't heard much about him since the offer. Are they still actively recruiting Olivier because I can tell you first hand from watching him on numerous occasions that he is a high major prospect and would flourish in Brad Underwoods offense. What do you know about his recruitment or any other notable recruits we are currently pursuing.

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 1:03 pm
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Peter,

Based on how Illinois has approached the transfer market (particularly for graduate transfers at the position Olivier Robinson Nkamhoua would play), that seems to indicate the coaching staff's preference. Grad transfers like T.J. Holyfield (Stephen F. Austin), Pat Andree (Lehigh) and Justin Pierce (William & Mary) seem to currently have priority.

That said, Robinson Nkamhoua's recruitment has picked up some steam this month with offers from Maryland, Tennessee and Pittsburgh. That puts him at seven high major offers, including Illinois, Minnesota, Wake Forest and Arkansas.

Can't say Illinois is a leading contender for any Class of 2019 recruit at the moment, but Tristan Enaruna is at least a name to watch even if Duke (no offer ... yet), Miami, Kansas and Creighton seemed to be the current favorites.

Scott Richey wrote on March 27, 2019 at 1:03 pm
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That's it for this week's chat, which was a solid one for the offseason (and early where there hasn't been any roster shuffling yet). Thanks again to everybody that submitted questions or followed along. The chat will return next week once again in the regular 12:30 p.m. Wednesday time slot.

Until then, enjoy the week!

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