April 24 Illinois basketball chat

April 24 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - 1:00pm

The spring signing period continues with Illinois still waiting to officially start its 2019 class and round out its 2019-20 roster. That could potentially include transfers, too, in addition to Kofi Cockburn and Bernard Kouma. Will the Illini land coveted grad transfer T.J. Holyfield? How about JUCO transfer and standout shooter Tomas Woldetensae? What Illinois doesn't have to worry about now, however, is what Ayo Dosunmu will do. The co-Most Outstanding Player for the Illini made his decision clear. He's coming back with unfinished business to take care of next season.

Beat writer Scott Richey is chatting at 1 p.m. Wednesday and will answer all of your Illini-related questions from recruiting to Illinois' place in the Big Ten next season to whatever else strikes your fancy. Submit your questions now, tell your friends and then submit a few more questions for good measure..

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Good afternoon everybody and thanks for waiting an extra 30 minutes for today's chat. Had to join in with Scott Beatty on pre-recording an interview with Illinois men's golf coach Mike Small that will run during Sports Talk later today. The Illini are headed to Philadelphia today (and soon) for the Big Ten tournament.

Make sure to tune in to WDWS 1400 AM starting at 5:10 p.m. for that interview and more. Like Kofi Cockburn actually signing with Illinois. That will probably come up.

Anyway, on to the chat ...

 

Anonymous User wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Where do Illini stand with Woldetensae and Holyfield?  They would solidify a much improved roster next season.  Also, when are Kofi & Kouma signing?  One more thing, will Kane remain?

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Anonymous,

I would say Illinois is in a good spot with both Tomas Woldetensae and T.J. Hoyfield. When it comes to Holyfield, the draw is pretty clear. There's playing time immediately available at the 4, and he already has a relationship with Brad Underwood. That said, the other teams in his final five (Texas Tech, Kansas, Miami and Oregon) can all sell more recent successes than the Illini. Each visit Holyfield gets through without committing (Texas Tech is done and Kansas is this weekend), the better Illinois will obviously feel about its chances.

Woldetensae was on campus this past weekend. Saw him Saturday watching a skill workout with the Illinois guards, so he got a decent idea of what life at Illinois would be like. Seemed like he was enjoying himself. However, at this point Illinois only has one open scholarship (although that could obviously change), so I would say Holyfield tops Woldetensae in terms of priority.

Kofi Cockburn, of course, signed last night, and that was made official this morning. Bernard Kouma still hasn't signed, but he has until May 15. Expectation is that he will do so before the deadline.

I don't foresee a Samba Kane transfer at this very moment, but Illinois lost players last offseason into June and this is college basketball we're talking about. Anything can happen when it comes to transfers. The one thing I don't see changing in the 2019-20 season is Kane's playing time. He'll still be behind Giorgi Bezhanishvili and now Cockburn at the 5 (because even as much as everyone wants to make Giorgi a 4 he's not there yet).

Terry Patton wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

What's up with Antwan January?  Why wouldn't he sign with Illinois if Bernard Kouma does?  Thanks for the chats and all your great coverage of Illinois basketball.

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Terry,

Antwan January doesn't seem to be in the picture for Illinois anymore. He played maybe two games this past season at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix to spend his senior year, from what I understand, trying to get his academics in order. 

Bernard Kouma's commitment was as clear a sign as any that the January train might have passed for the Illini. It's simple scholarship math. Illinois wouldn't tie up three scholarships with what are basically all centers (even if Kouma is listed as a power forward) in the 2019 class when there are other positional needs.

Anonymous User wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

is January going to be eligible. I don't even see him mentioned

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Anonymous,

See answer to previous question.

Khan al-Sanderz wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

So very much appreciate the chats!  

With Cockburn signed (and I think that the NY kid Kouma already signed), that now means the end of Antwan January or is he still floating around?  I realize the powers that be are mum but I'm thinking that there aggressive pursuit of transfers means a few commits/players are leaving the program.  If we pick up the two wing transfers - Holyfield and Tomas - how do you see a lineup next year and who do you see leaving?

 

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Khan,

Bernard Kouma has actually not signed yet, but the expectation remains he will. Getting Kofi Cockburn officially on board, though, was obviously a big deal for Illinois. With all the Antwan January questions today I checked out his social media and his posts about committing to Illinois no longer exist. I'd say that's your answer. Kouma's commitment was basically the January isn't going to make it to C-U move, in my opinion.

So that leaves a scholarship open for either T.J. Holyfield or Tomas Woldetensae. And, well, you can't discount the idea that the Illini will free up another somehow to land them both. They want them both. While there haven't been any transfers yet, that doesn't mean there won't be one and Anthony Higgs' situation still remains unclear. Will try to get some actual clarity on that soon.

Anyway, assuming Illinois is able to get both Holyfield and Woldetensae, here's what the lineup and rotation would like if I was in charge:

Starters
Ayo Dosunmu
Trent Frazier
Tevian Jones
T.J. Holyfield
Kofi Cockburn/Giorgi Bezhanishvili

NOTE: I know I said Kofi over Giorgi in a podcast, but I could start either.

Off the bench
Andres Feliz
Cockburn/Bezhanishvili
Alan Griffin
Tomas Woldetensae
Da'Monte Williams
Kipper Nichols
Samba Kane

NOTE: Reserves listed in order by minutes, and honestly I wouldn't go with more than a 10-man rotation. At some point, you just have to play the best guys more.

Panera Guy wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Scott,

Thanks for taking our questions today, appreciate your time with the chats. A couple random ones for you. 

Why doesn’t Champaign ever host games for the NCAA tournament? You see smaller markets like Dayton and Tulsa, I think it would be exciting to see 1st round games at the Assembly Hall. 

Second question, does the team have any planned trips overseas for exhibition games like they did in 2015? With American college basketball’s increasing popularity all over the world, it could certainly lead to future success. 

Thanks again. 

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Panera Guy,

You had a good first question and one I had to run by Bob Asmussen since he's sitting right here next to me in the office and knows more about that type of thing. His answer was the lack of enough full-service hotels (need at least eight, if not nine) and Champaign isn't quite there yet. Also, while Dayton is simliar in size to Champaign-Urbana, Tulsa's population is just more than 400,000. When it comes to a Dayton vs. C-U comparison, Dayton has a bigger airport with more airlines that connects to more markets. Teams, of course, fly charter, but fans don't. Those are a few thoughts on the matter at least.

As for your second question, Illinois is going to Italy this summer. The team gets 10 practice days, which it intends to spread throughout July, and then will head to Italy for what I believe is four games in eight days.

ChiefI wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

What do we know about next seasons basketball schedule other than big 10 and Arizona doubleheader

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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ChiefI,

Not much other than Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game and somebody in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Last year's schedule came piece by piece through the summer, and I expect this coming season's schedule will be released the same way. The "where" of the bulk of the remaining nonconference games is known, though. Brad Underwood wants them in Champaign, although there might be another nonconference game in Chicago (since it will not be a Big Ten game again).

life-long fan wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

do your have any current info on the recruiting status of enaruna and oliver robinson-nkamhoua?

thanks for your work

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Life-long fan,

Tristan Enaruna cut his list to three, and it didn't include Illinois. He's down to Creighton, Miami and Kansas. Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua is a guy that keeps his recruitment really tight. He's visited Illinois and Pittsburgh so far, but also has offers from Maryland, Tennessee and Minnesota (although the Gophers just got a 2019 commit at his position so they might be out).

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Life-long fan,

Tristan Enaruna cut his list to three, and it didn't include Illinois. He's down to Creighton, Miami and Kansas. Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua is a guy that keeps his recruitment really tight. He's visited Illinois and Pittsburgh so far, but also has offers from Maryland, Tennessee and Minnesota (although the Gophers just got a 2019 commit at his position so they might be out).

MIKE FOSTER wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Now that Kofi is in the house, do we know when the other commits are going to sign (Kouma, January, etc.)?

What's next for Brad Underwood and the coaching staff? What areas/skills will be the focus of off season?

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Mike,

There's no definite timetable on Bernard Kouma signing with Illinois other than the expectation it happens before the May 15 deadline. Antwan January, who was removed all things Illinois-related from his social media accounts, won't be coming to C-U it seems.

Recruiting is what's next for the Illinois coaching staff. They've been out this week and will continue that with the first evaluation period of the spring this weekend (notably Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas for the three major shoe company leagues). Even though the 2019 class isn't complete, there's work to be done on 2020 and beyond. Workouts also continue at Ubben. In terms of the returning players, skill work across the board is a priority along with everybody (the soon-to-be sophomores primarily) getting stronger in the weight room. Rebounding probably tops Brad Underwood's list of things to improve, with three-point shooting and free throw shooting not far behind.

Marc T. wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Do recruits ever play pickup ball or fully participate in a practice (if in-season) when they are on campus?  

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Marc T,

Pretty sure participating in a practice would be an NCAA recruiting violation. However, recruits can play in a pickup game with current players as long as the coaching staff is not in the gym. That does happen at Illinois.

KCR wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Is BU finally turning the corner for Illini hoops for a return to longtime success? 

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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KCR,

Maybe? I discussed this line of thinking in my podcast this week (click here to listen). My stance is Illinois, on paper, has improved its talent level. However, this team just set a program record for losses in 2018-19. To get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season, the Illini essentially have to flip their record (from 12-21 to 21-12) this coming season. Having talent on paper is one thing. Doing something with it on the court is what actually matters. I guess we'll all find out starting in November.

Scott Richey wrote on April 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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That's it for today's chat. It was a good one, so many thanks to everybody that submitted a question. If you just followed along? That's appreciated, too. I'll be back next Wednesday for more of the same, and maybe there will be more roster news to discuss.

Until then, enjoy the week!

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