What's next for Underwood, Illini?

What's next for Underwood, Illini?

Illinois still has two open scholarships for the 2018-19 season after Normal West center Francis Okoro committed to Oregon, but could still use some frontcourt help. So what’s next for Brad Underwood and the Illini?

Target another 2018 big?
This step has already been taken with an offer to 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward Parker Braun. A three-star prospect per Rivals, Braun’s recruitment reached a higher level this spring with offers from Arizona, LSU, Ole Miss and Nebraska in addition to the Illini. The Overland Park, Kan., native played for MOKAN Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit in 2017, mostly backing up Missouri’s Jontay Porter. Braun finished off his senior season at Blue Valley Northwest with a second straight Class 6A state championship while averaging 11.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

Find a grad transfer?
Underwood prefers adding freshmen, confident in his and his coaching staff’s ability to develop players. That’s why he’s offered more 2018 big men this spring like signees Samba Kane and Giorgi Bezhanishvili in addition to Braun and Bryce Golden (who signed with Butler). Two open scholarships, though, means the grad transfer route is still a possibility. Finding a big man that would fit the program and be able to compete at the Big Ten level is the challenge, with a transfer market heavier on guards. More options could become available, though, after the deadline passes for early entrants to pull their names from the NBA Draft.


Stand pat?
Illinois played the entire 2017-18 season with two open scholarships. It was calculated move by Brad Underwood to deal with a short, inexperienced roster for one season to speed up the rebuilding process with more scholarships available for the 2018 class. The Illini have added six players this offseason, and leaving two open scholarships for 2018-19 ensures that same type of flexibility. Illinois would be in the mix for potential mid-year transfers, or those scholarships could be rolled over to a rather important 2019 recruiting class, which features top targets E.J. Liddell and Kahlil Whitney.