Austin ready for something new
CHAMPAIGN — The biggest question mark new Illinois walk-on Alex Austin has about his new situation is whether his dad will update his wardrobe to include some orange and blue.
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Austin’s dad, Woody Austin, was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1988 and was an all-Big Ten player at Purdue in 1992.
“I hope so, he should,” the transfer from Eastern Illinois said.
The younger Austin, a 6-foot-4 guard who started the last two season at Eastern Illinois, was accepted into school at the UI on Thursday and plans to join John Groce’s program as a walk-on. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2014-15 season.
“I just felt like I wanted to go somewhere a little bigger and see what else was out there,” Austin said. “I enjoyed the two years at Eastern, but I felt like I needed to try something new and it would be better for me to develop as a player and a person.”
Austin averaged 8.2 points and 2.4 rebounds during his career with the Panthers, starting 36 of 59 games. A 2 guard, Austin comes to the Illini with no expectations beyond working hard in practice every day and helping the team however he can.
He met with Groce and the coaching staff last week to get a feel for the situation he is walking into.
“He emphasized to me nothing is guaranteed,” Austin said. “He explained the worst-case scenario I probably won’t play for the next three years and his biggest concern was coming from EIU where I averaged (23) minutes, he wanted to know if I was mentally prepared to make that transition from playing all the time at a Division-I school and coming into UI having a good attitude and not being a bad teammate and competing every day in practice.”
Austin was OK with those conditions. He plans to make the move to Champaign in the next week and play pick-up games with the current players the remainder of the summer. Because he’s not enrolled in summer school, he cannot participate in full team workouts.
Austin is familiar with some of the current UI players. The Chicago native was a teammate of Illini point guard Tracy Abrams at Mt. Carmel and he grew up playing against Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn.
“Obviously, I won’t get to play with Tracy because I’ll have to sit out. He was definitely happy for me and it’ll be like old times,” said Austin, who averaged 18.9 points and 7.2 rebounds as a senior at Mt Carmel.