April 3 Illinois basketball chat

April 3 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 12:30pm

The offseason continues for Illinois men's basketball, with recruiting moving from an everyday thing to the No. 1 priority. Who might Brad Underwood and Co. add for the 2019-20 season? Will it be transfers or more Class of 2019 prospects like Kofi Cockburn and Antwan January? Could there be more roster turnover? Beat writer Scott Richey will answer all of your Illini hoops questions (plus spring football, baseball, etc.) in his weekly chat set for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Good afternoon everybody and welcome back to another offseason edition of our weekly basketball chat. Since it's the offseason, though, I'm just biding my time until I head out to Illinois Field to cover the second game of the Illini baseball "series" with Coastal Carolina. Big win for Dan Hartleb's crew last night.

Before I get to your questions, I've got an answer to a question submitted last week by Matt K. I was told Illinois women's basketball player Nancy Panagiotopoulou missed all of last season with another injury. The hope from the coaching staff is to have her back and healthy for 2019-20.

Anyway, on to this week's questions ...

Anonymous User wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm

It would seem as if Kofi has not been able to "recruit" others to the ILLINI...is anyone of note going to join him next year? Is January going to be here after spending the past year getting is studies in order, or his he headed Juco as rumored? 

Thanks for the chats, as always.

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Illinois is probably hoping someone "of note" will join Kofi Cockburn next season. Who that might be is still the question, and Cockburn, of course, still has to sign later this month. The Illini's class officially stands at zero in that regard. Illinois has, at minimum, one scholarship still to fill, and it could be filled via any available avenue — another high school recruit, a junior college player, a grad transfer or even a sit-and-play transfer. Everything is on the table.

As you mentioned, Antwan January spent his senior year at Hillcrest Prep not playing and, in fact, getting his academics lined up. He obviously has through the end of July (sort of like Samba Kane last year, although that was a simpler case) to do so. Only time will tell if January successfully completed that task. It's definitely not a sure thing, though.

Khan al-Sanderz wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Any updates on the Higgs situation?  Were I S. Kane, I would look at last seasons limited playing time, evaluate that two freshmen are coming in that may take even that time from me and consider putting a transfer, too.  While all players develop so much after the freshmen campaign, there doesn't seem to be a lot of faith from today's players in staying the course.

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Still nothing official on the status of Anthony Higgs. Will keep everyone apprised once there's something to actually report.

Meanwhile, Samba Kane is looking at a difficult circumstance when it comes to playing time after appearing in just 17 games and averaging 5.8 minutes this past season. Kofi Cockburn is probably looking at 20ish minutes per game at the 5 next season. Depending on how the roster shakes out (i.e. the ability to add an athletic 4), Giorgi Bezhanishvili is coming off a season where he played 26.1 minutes per game at the 5. That math doesn't add up to much (if any) for Kane.

Will he transfer? That's up to him. He could be perfectly happy at Illinois and decide to stay. If he wants more playing time, that probably only comes somewhere else, and considering we'll probably top 800 transfers it's not like he'd be the only guy on the move looking for something more.

slammo wrote on April 03, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Has the coaching staff had all of their postseason meetings with the players? Just curious as after those, generally we see some players announcing that they're leaving and if they've held the meetings and we haven't heard anything yet, curious if that means something as far as attrition. 

Regarding transfers, outside of Holyfield and Hardy who we know the team is pursuing, is there any other news on some of these names? 

Haanif Cheatham

Pat Andree

Jeantal Cylla

Shakur Juiston

Christian Keeling

Matt Milon

Justin Pierce

Matt Ryan

Nate Sestina

Derrik Smits

Rayjon Tucker

Daniel Utomi

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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I was in the basketball offices yesterday, actually, and those meetings have just begun to get scheduled. Brad Underwood is headed to the Final Four this weekend, so, and this is just a guess, I'd imagine they'll start next week.

Here's what I've found on your list of transfers ...

Haanif Cheatham — Programs reportedly involved per Jeff Goodman for FGCU guard are Nevada, Houston, Maryland and New Mexico.

Pat Andree — Illinois has expressed interest in Lehigh grad transfer and is still pursuing him. His first visit, though, will be to N.C. State next weekend.

Jeantal Cylla — Illini not among programs listed that are involved with UNCW transfer. Per Rivals' Corey Evans, that list is Nevada, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Middle Tennessee, FGCU and Charlotte.

Shakur Juiston — Missed most of last year after actually hurting his knee against Illinois. He was obviously a one-time John Groce recruit (if I recall the timing correctly), and current coaching staff coached against him twice. Believe there's at least some interest. 

Matt Milon — William & Mary guard has received interest per Goodman from Florida, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Charlotte, Loyola Chicago, Seton Hall, Creighton, USC and Wake Forest.

Justin Pierce — Illinois had interest in William & Mary grad transfer, but I don't believe that interest has been reciprocated. Won't be surprised if he winds up in the Big Ten, though.

Matt Ryan — Vanderbilt stretch 4 is a fairly recent addition to the transfer portal. Not a lot out there on where he lands next.

Nate Sestina — Bucknell grad transfer visited Kentucky on Monday and currently has no other visits scheduled.

Derrik Smits — Illinois has expressed interest in the 7-foot-1 center even if that might not be a serious position of need. Still, it would be cool to see his dad, former Pacers center Rik Smits, in the State Farm Center stands.

Rayjon Tucker — The Little Rock guard might be one of the more intriguing grad transfers on the market. However, he's got a visit to West Virginia set up for next weekend and he's also considering Memphis, Texas Tech, Auburn, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Arizona State, South Carolina and Iowa State per 247Sports' Evan Daniels. As you can see, Illinois is not on that list.

Daniel Utomi — Lengthy (and I mean lengthy) list of schools that have reached out for the Akron forward, including Illinois. Bit of a red flag, at least in my opinion, is that his efficiency and production dropped across the board on the offensive end with no real change in usage.

Zekiah Swamp wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Is Kipper on track to graduate this spring/summer?

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Because Kipper Nichols arrived in December 2015, he's obviously at least a semester behind where he normally would have been. In theory, that makes me think spring graduation might be tough (although summer classes the last three years help in that regard) but summer graduation could be possible. But I don't know his current academic status in terms of timeline.

MIKE FOSTER wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Any word on transfers? I like the group of freshmen we had come in and hope they stick it out with the program. I think we are starting to see Brad Underwood's vision come together.

Is there any position where we are log jammed for playing time? I hate seeing good players leave because they get lost in the shuffle.

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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As of 1:09 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3, when I started typing this reponse, Illinois had not lost any players to transfer. But this is college basketball. Transfers happen. There probably won't be any real clarity until after Brad Underwood has his individual meetings with players. That's when conversations about role and fit happen.

The only "log jam" would be at the wing, and that's probably not the right characterization of it. Aaron Jordan exhausting his elibility clears things up a bit, and in my opinion I could see the potential of Alan Griffin and Tevian Jones (should they reach it) making that an easier decision in regards to who plays and how much.

At the other spots, the Illini are set at the lead guard spot with Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu and Andres Feliz, and they don't currently have enough big guys to create a log jam.

Scott Richey wrote on April 03, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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That's it for this week's chat. Thanks, as always, to everybody that submitted questions or followed along. Be on the lookout for some Illinois baseball coverage from yours truly in Thursday's News-Gazette. Our all-state girls' and boys' basketball teams will also run this weekend. It's familiar names for our respective players of the year — and names Illini fans wish would have stayed home.

The chat will be back next week. Same time, same place. Until then, enjoy the week and the spring weather!