UPDATE: Coaching staff key in landing Eboigbodin

UPDATE: Coaching staff key in landing Eboigbodin

CHAMPAIGN — Greg Eboigbodin grew up playing soccer in Nigeria before ever contemplating a turn toward basketball.

One thing remains, however, from his days with the ball at his feet to now with the ball in his hands — even as he’s grown to 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds. Eboigbodin likes to run.

Illinois has Chin Coleman, the assistant coach that recruited Eboigbodin at Illinois-Chicago. Illinois has the type of academic profile Eboigbodin was looking for in a school.

But Illinois also has Brad Underwood and the uptempo style of play that helped him win 109 games in the past four seasons at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State.

All of the above helped convince Eboigbodin that Illinois was the school and basketball program for him after receiving his release from UIC this spring. The Detroit Jesuit product committed to Underwood and the Illini on Tuesday.

“(Underwood) showed me the highlight tapes of when he was at Oklahoma State,” Eboigbodin said. “The way they run the floor — even the bigs, they run the floor — that’s something my high school coach worked with me my three years of playing. We liked to run teams out of the gym. We liked to make the game fast so we could get easy buckets.

“A transition bucket is the easiest bucket you can get. When he showed me (the highlights) I was really excited, and I think it suits my style of play.”

Eboigbodin won a MHSAA Class A state title with Detroit Jesuit as a junior in 2015-16 playing alongside Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. He helped guide the Cubs to a 20-4 record and a state quarterfinals appearance this past season while averaging 13.8 points, 13.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 66 percent from the field.

“I know I haven’t played basketball for a long time, but it was with the right people,” Eboigbodin said. “I’m really happy with the people I’ve been with so far. I played with Cassius Winston. I played with Miles Bridges (for The Family Detroit on the Nike EYBL circuit). … The way I played my senior year — the numbers I put up — everything was from what I learned in the EYBL and playing with those guys.”

The coaching staff Eboigbodin will work with at Illinois was one of the primary reasons he picked the Illini, too. He gets a chance to play in Underwood’s system and be coached by someone he already has a relationship with in Coleman and a noted post player developer in Illinois assistant Orlando Antigua.

“The way (Coleman) communicates with players is something I really like,” Eboigbodin said. “Coach Antigua, I read about him. He’s worked for coach (John) Calipari and developed a lot of bigs. Having him there as a coach, he’s someone I can learn from.”

Eboigbodin is Underwood’s third addition to the Illinois roster since he was hired in mid-March, joining 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith and Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork. What he has that those two don’t is what Underwood has been searching for — size.

Eboigbodin — the fourth member of Illinois’ 2017 class along with guards Smith, Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams — gives Illinois some much needed post depth. He joins redshirt juniors Leron Black and Michael Finke in the Illini frontcourt.

“My offensive game is there, but I think the things I do really well are rebounding and defense,” Eboigbodin said, while adding he knows he needs to put on some weight when he joins the team. He intends to arrive in Champaign on Saturday to be on campus for the start of the summer session.

“I really take pride in defense and rebounding both,” Eboigbodin continued. “I rebound the ball very well and run the floor very well. I’m the guy who does every little thing for the team.”

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illinifaningeorgia wrote on June 06, 2017 at 4:06 pm

And the poaching of the "sister school" continues.  Nice job, Underwood.

Moonpie wrote on June 07, 2017 at 9:06 am

Bit of a beanpole and bit of a project. Not heavily sought after by real hoops programs.

Perfect for the Illini.

We'll see. Hope he pans out before too many years slip by at the NIT.

jjohnson wrote on June 07, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Remember, you cannot coach 6'9"