Balky knee keeps Underwood off the greens

Balky knee keeps Underwood off the greens

SAVOY — Brad Underwood wanted to golf Monday. But his balky knee, the one that needs arthroscopic surgery, wouldn't allow it.

"I'm having some (work) done," Underwood said. "We'll have to tough it out and get through it. I've got some cartilage damage, bone on bone. We'll try to prolong a knee replacement."

The injury goes back to his time on the court.

"That just means we're getting old," Underwood said.

Underwood is dealing with the pain. He has the knee treated a couple of times a day.

"Walking is not the most comfortable thing in the world," Underwood said.

Instead of swinging the clubs, the second-year Illinois men's basketball coach talked to the crowd before the annual Kendall Gill Golf Benefit at the UI Orange Course. Underwood took pictures with the fans and did a string of media interviews.

Next year, he promised, he will play in the event.

Full plate

Bad knee or not, Underwood and his staff are in the middle of a busy July.

"They've been good," Underwood said of working with the players each week. "I've been pleased. We've been very basic, very fundamental. We're doing a lot of teaching. We're experimenting with some things as well.

"Our leadership from our veterans has been off the chart. All those guys are doing great."

How are the freshmen?

"They have days," Underwood said. "That's why they're freshmen. I love their youthful exuberance. I love their excitement level. I love their willingness to want to become great. They've got a great swagger about them that is really fun to see."

The coaches also need to recruit. They're spending the early part of the week in C-U with the players and then hitting the road, leaving Wednesday morning for events in Atlanta and New York.

"We're excited about it," Underwood said. "We have a good idea who we want to recruit and go after. I think it's more important to keep identifying second, third, fourth options in case you don't get your top guy. I think it's really important to recruit all positions today."

A big fan

The Gill outing is in its 29th year. The coach appreciates that kind of longevity.

"It speaks volumes to the character of Kendall," Underwood said. "It's tremendous that the local community in Champaign-Urbana thinks enough of it and enough of Kendall that they've come out and supported this."

Underwood points to Gill as one of the program's role models.

"Absolutely," Underwood said. "You're talking about a guy whose character and work ethic matched his talent. Then he became a long-time pro. And he became a first-class citizen and has always been that. That's been very evident in the way he's run his everyday life and his involvement in things like this."

Underwood wants more alums like Gill, players who excel in college, then have long careers in pro basketball.

"I think it's always a part of the recruiting world today," Underwood said. "When you're in a Power 5 conference, you're producing pros. Not only at the NBA level, but in the European level. Getting guys like Kendall, getting guys like Deron (Williams) who have long careers in the NBA is something we all strive for.

"We've got guys who are capable of that now. Only time will tell."