'Guys love to play for him'

'Guys love to play for him'

As the first week of summer workouts comes to an end, college basketball beat writer Scott Richey reached out to former Illinois guard turned Fighting Illini Sports Network radio analyst Doug Altenberger for his take on new coach Brad Underwood and the Illini:

What's been your impression of Brad Underwood?

I met him up in Chicago and really enjoyed meeting Brad and meeting his family and children. They're a terrific family. He just seems to be a good fit at Illinois. I think he understands the challenges as well the potential. He's a tough guy, but guys love to play for him. To me, he's highly respected within the coaching profession, and I'm really excited to have him on board.

Which player might be set for a breakthrough in his system this winter?

I have a feeling that (Michael) Finke can play that high post spot at the free throw line extended. (Underwood) likes to run the offense through that spot and reverse the basketball, and you've got a guy that can pass and shoot. I think Michael could be a surprise. He's got length, he can pass, he showed he can play a little bit more physical and he can shoot the rock.

What challenges does the 2017-18 team face?

The problem is going to be the bodies. He's got a team that's, in a sense, from top to bottom — big men to guards — is out of whack. He's got to get guys, especially the bigs, that can play physical, Big Ten style basketball. We don't have that right now. I think that's the biggest challenge he's going to have.

How important is locking down players like Mark Smith from Edwardsville?

It's big. The reason I tell you it's big is because coach (Lou) Henson struggled a little bit with recruiting until he got (1982 Mr. Basketball) Bruce Douglas and Efrem Winters — five-star, McDonald's All-American players. It's a game-changer and it helps you. It gets people excited. I was excited when they signed Bruce. It was one of the reasons I came to Illinois because I wanted to play with great players. Hats off to Brad. He went in there and did a good of selling what his version of Illinois basketball was.

What attribute can Malcolm Hill sell the most in trying to start his professional career?

He's probably the hardest working player that I've seen come into the program in years. He's improved his three-point shooting extremely well. He's played multiple positions. Defensively he has stepped up at times as well as being the top scorer. He's had to wear a lot of different hats. I think for him in the NBA if he can improve behind the NBA three-point line, he could have a great career because he does have the ability to do multiple things for you to win. He's just a complete player. He's not great at any one thing, but he's really good at everything.

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