April 10 Illinois basketball chat

April 10 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 12:30pm

Illinois will be able to officially add four-star center Kofi Cockburn starting April 17 with the spring signing period stretching to mid-May. Who else might join the future Illini big man in Champaign? One scholarship remains open should Illinois also be able to bring another four-star center in Antwan January on board. Could it go to an athletic power forward capable of stretching the floor (a T.J. Holyfield or Pat Andree type)? Or might it go to a shooter from either the high school, junior college or transfer ranks? 

Beat writer Scott Richey, who's also following Illinois football and baseball this spring (and will jump into volleyball again for Wednesday's match with Purdue) will answer your Illini-related questions in his weekly chat. Get them submitted early and often before Richey delivers some answers at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Good afternoon everybody and welcome back to another offseason edition of our weekly chat. Some news this week, obviously, with the commitment of 2019 big man Bernard Kouma. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the 2019-20 Illinois roster shakes out.

Anyway, I've got a hanful of questions all queued up, so let's get to it ...

Bobby Deal wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Kofi Cockburn will be a force with some coaching and conditioning. What do you think of Antwan January? I think he will be another hidden gem like Giorgi.

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Bobby,

You submitted your question before Bernard Kouma committed, so let's just pretend he's the hidden gem like Giorgi Bezhanishvili in the 2019 class because his commitment makes it pretty unlikely Illinois expects to get Antwan January.

Kouma did one thing really well in high school, and that was rebound. Illinois did not rebound well at all this past season, making Kouma particularly valuable if he can translate that skill set to the next level.

Khan al-Sanderz wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

As always, thanks for taking time out of your day to share your sports knowledge in these the chats.

With adding a thin #4, which seems fine, they are now out of scholarships, right?  Do they continue to offer up players in case Higgs or another leaves and then just sort things out later?

Are they looking at the PG situation beyond next year.  Assuming Ayo advances in skills, next year could be his last.  It will be Frazier's penultimate year.  Getting no PG over a several year period (along with other big misses) doomed John Groce's teams.  

 

 

 

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Khan,

Even with a commitment from Bernard Kouma, Illinois' scholarship math is not yet a complete equation. Theoretically, yes, Illinois is now out of scholarships, but it is unlikely Antwan January will sign and Anthony Higgs' situation has exactly zero clarity at the moment. So, in short, there's at least one scholarship still open. The Illini are going to keep recruiting players to add this offseason.

The point guard situation for the 2020-21 season will be interesting because, like you mentioned, Ayo Dosunmu could (should?) be gone. Andres Feliz will also have graduated. Adding a 2020 point guard, therefore, is a priority. Some names to watch in that regard include Andre Curbelo (Long Island Lutheran), R.J. Davis (Archbishop Stepinac), Adam Miller (Morgan Park) and D.J. Steward (Whitney Young) There's also a chance Illinois could add a sit-and-play transfer at that spot this offseason. The interest in Amauri Hardy before he decided to return to UNLV backs that up, but now that he's off the market maybe that ship has sailed.

Zekiah Swamp wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Would you agree - by accepting the commitment of Houma, Brad Underwood has essentially written-off either Higgs or January or both? 

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Zekiah,

I would say that Bernard Kouma's commitment means the big man from New York (via Chad) is essentially taking Antwan January's spot. That's not a move I would think Illinois makes with some other holes to fill on the roster if January was going to be able to sign. As far as Anthony Higgs goes, like I mentioned in my last response, there's no official word yet on his status moving forward.

Illini fan in New York wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

What's the latest on Ayo Dosunmu's status and who are three players you're keeping an eye on to make the most progress before the 2019-2020 starts? Thanks for all your work!

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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NY Illini fan,

Ayo Dosunmu has been pretty quiet about his intentions. He has until April 21 to decide if he wants to put his name in the NBA draft as an early entrant. That deadline is clearly approaching, but he's got another week-and-a-half to decide.

In terms of players that need to make the most progress before next season, two stand out for sure. Breakout sophomore seasons (or at least consistent, better play at both ends) from Alan Griffin and Tevian Jones is going to be critical for Illinois turning around a 12-21 finish this past season. Da'Monte Williams turning into more of an offensive threat wouldn't hurt either.

IllinoisFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Hey Scott,

Guards and Bigs aplenty, but we need that 6' 7", 6' 8" long athelete, that can score off the ball. Maybe Kip has a come back yr. but is he even 6' 6"? With Kouma on board, what happens with the elusive A. January? Will he need to go the Jr. College route due to grades? And please please, no talk of Georgi off the benck! He was a hustling bright spot this past season. I'd alternate plays for the bigs inside to keep the defense guessing. Too bad the talking heads at NCAA Tourney HQ didn't read L. Tate's revealing article on Bruce Pearl. All they mentioned was a BBQ for some recruit, and the asst coach who got canned. Of course, no ties to Pearl. Now that the college season is over, do you think any of these suspected programs face the music?

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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FanSinceTheSpoon,

Yes, an athletic forward with size is still an Illinois need. Those guys hurt the Illini all last season, and that's why you've seen Illinois pursue the likes of T.J. Holyfield and Pat Andree to fill that roster hole. From standing next to him several times, Kipper Nichols is probably 6-foot-6, but he hasn't shown he can consistently be what Illinois needs at the 4.

As previously mentioned, Bernard Kouma's commitment probably means the end of Antwan January to Illinois. It doesn't make sense in terms of roster building to take Kouma if January could still be a part of the 2019-20 roster. 

Giorgi Bezhanishvili off the bench was just an idea. I'm not sold on him playing alongside Kofi Cockburn much unless Bezhanishvili can stretch the floor consistently. The Illinois offense needs space to operate at its best, and crowding the paint with two bigs can't be an all the time thing. Look at it this way, Bezhanishvili will get his minutes regardless if he starts (Cockburn's not a 40-minute guy), and the 6-9 Georgian might be the energy the Illini need in their second unit. Of course, Brad Underwood would say it doesn't matter who starts, so there's that.

I really don't know what will come of the programs that have been implicated in the various bribery and fraud cases that have hit college basketball. Let's just say I don't expect much from the NCAA given its track record, but I could be wrong.

illiniFL wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Sigh how do you not put Illinois in your too early to rank top 10?!  We're going to dominate and win out  the conference and tourney ;)  Too much talent on the roster and I predict Ayo will be back and Frazier and Ayo will improve how they play together. Giorgi is going to start shooting 3s as well :)   And DW, AG and TJ will have breakout years :)

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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illiniFL,

To your question I would say I've reached a point with Illinois basketball where I've got to see the improvement on the court (and in the win-loss column) before I buy into things being different. Does Illinois have a talented roster on paper? Sure. Should it be better after this past season's experience? Sure. Will it actually? To be determined.

V V Thompson wrote on April 10, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Andy Katz has UI BB at #36 in the "way too early" 2019/2020 rankings.  Still behind Iowa, MSU, Mich, Purdue, OSU, and Maryland.  UW & Penn State are 37 & 38.  Is the Big 10 going to be that loaded next year to have 9 teams considered top 40?

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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V V Thompson,

I guess my answer right now is maybe. There shouldn't be a ton of roster turnover in the league as a whole save for Nebraska (where everyone's basically gone). The players that have declared for the NBA draft so far will have some impact on that, of course, so it's a little too early to tell. Michigan might be hit the hardest by that, with Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole all declaring. Matthews is probably gone, but Brazdeikis (a second round pick at best I'd say) sounded like a guy looking to be playing pro hoops.

I can envision a 2019-20 season much like the one that just happened where Big Ten teams knock the snot out of each other for two-plus months, build some solid NCAA tournament resumes in the process and put a good number of teams in the big dance. Winning a national title? Well, that still remains a work in progress, although next season will be the 20th anniversary of the last (Michigan State in 2000).

Scott Richey wrote on April 10, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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That's it for today's chat. As always, thanks to everybody that submitted a question or just followed along. Be on the lookout the rest of this week for more Illinois basketball, volleyball and football coverage. I'll be at the spring volleyball match tonight at Huff and Saturday's football spring game. 

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

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