Higgs in transfer portal

Higgs in transfer portal

CHAMPAIGN — Brad Underwood’s first offseason as Illinois men’s basketball coach was rather tumultuous when it came to roster turnover.

Six players left the Illini — four transferring, one turning pro and another opting to return home to Europe.

The way rosters change now in college basketball — particularly after a coach’s first season — didn’t make Underwood’s first full offseason with the Illinois exactly an outlier, but it did change the dynamic and makeup of the Illini roster. Six departures gave way to eight scholarship newcomers, including six true freshmen.

Roster continuity had been the trend so far this offseason for Illinois. But one of those eight newcomers for the 2018-19 season — freshman forward Anthony Higgs — became the first roster loss this offseason when he announced his intent to transfer Tuesday.

“In regard to the news I will be transferring from Illinois, I would like to say that I had a great experience despite the circumstances I was under,” Higgs wrote in a tweet. “I learned a tremendous amount about the game of basketball, but, more importantly, I became a better person.

“This move was just what was best for both me and the university. I am extremely appreciative of the coaching staff as well as the managers and my teammates. U of I will always hold a special place with me.”

Higgs’ tenure at Illinois, though, didn’t last even a calendar year as he was a late addition to the 2019 class.

He was offered on May 7 following his decommitment from Ole Miss after the Rebels’ coaching change, and he committed to the Illini a little more than a month later on June 26.

Higgs arrived in Champaign and almost immediately underwent surgery for a foot injury.

He was in a protective boot in the fall before practices began and was ultimately never cleared to return to action. Underwood made that official in late January.

“Anthony’s had some issues with the foot in terms of just healing,” Underwood said at the time. “It’s taken a little while longer, and there’s no sense jeopardizing a year with what we think could be a very bright future.”

That future will wind up being elsewhere, and Higgs’ status in regard to his foot remains unclear.

Underwood told reporters last month the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward had still yet to be cleared to participate in workouts.

Higgs’ transfer does create a little more scholarship flexibility for Underwood and the Illini.

Four-star center Kofi Cockburn is the only player officially signed in the 2019 class, as Illinois still waits on Bernard Kouma.

The three-star forward committed a month ago to the day but has yet to visit Illinois or sign. The spring signing period concludes in exactly one week.

The Illini remain in pursuit of a pair of transfers to round out their 2019-20 roster after Class of 2019 forward Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua committed to Tennessee on Tuesday.

Illinois hosted Stephen F. Austin graduate transfer forward TJ Holyfield this past weekend for his final visit, and he’s set to decide between the Illini, Kansas and Texas Tech.

Junior college All-American guard Tomas Woldetensae also visited Illinois last month and just completed a visit this past weekend at newly-crowned national champion Virginia.