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P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Andre Curbelo So. 6-1 9.1 Vega Baja, Puerto Rico

G Trent Frazier Sr. 6-2 10.2 Wellington, Fla.

G Da’Monte Williams Sr. 6-3 5.5 Peoria

G/F Jacob Grandison Gr. 6-6 4.6 Oakland, Calif.

C Kofi Cockburn Jr. 7-0 17.7 Kingston, Jamaica

FYI: Frazier and Williams have both played 126 career games out of 127 possible in their first four years at Illinois. That still leaves them 10 short of breaking into the top 10 for most career games played — a category Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale lead with 139 apiece. A super senior season for Frazier and Williams means they’ll make the record book this year. But with an asterisk?

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Alfonso Plummer Gr. 6-1 13.6 Fajardo, Puerto Rico

F Omar Payne Jr. 6-10 3.8 Kissimmee, Fla.

F Coleman Hawkins So. 6-10 1.4 Sacramento, Calif.

*Stats from 2020-21 season

St. Francis


P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Carlos Tovias Gr. 6-0 8.5 Corsicana, Texas

G Russell Tillery Gr. 6-1 8.9 Portland, Ore.

G/F Joey Buggemi Sr. 6-3 11.1 Frankfort

F/C Lewis Holey Gr. 6-5 8.0 Sydney

F EJ Charles Jr. 6-7 6.5 Mokena

FYI: Holey is one of seven international players on the St. Francis roster and one of two from Australia. The Saints also have players from New Zealand, Israel, Sweden, Spain and Scotland. One of their graduate assistants is from much closer in former Centennial and Parkland standout Terrion Howard.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

F Carter Fayhee Sr. 6-4 5.9 Macomb

G Matt Attard Sr. 6-2 4.4 Melbourne, Australia

G Nadav Gerner So. 6-3 3.0 Ganei Tikva, Israel

* Stats from 2020-21 season.


Site: State Farm Center (15,544); Champaign.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Deon Thomas (analysis) will have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, 93.9-FM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDAN-1490-AM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

Online: Streaming available on BTN Plus (subscription).

FYI: Saturday’s exhibition opener against St. Francis is one of four Illini games airing only on BTN Plus. The other three include next week’s exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.) and regular-season games against Arkansas State on Nov. 12 and UT Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 26. The monthly fee for BTN Plus is $9.94, and the annual rate is $79.95.

Beat writer Scott Richey’s three storylines to watch

Underwood: High praise for St. Francis coach

St. Francis coach Ryan Marks has coached at nearly every level of basketball. The Chicago native followed up his graduation from Southern California with time as a player personnel assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers and two seasons as a high school coach in Pasadena, Calif. Then came time as an assistant coach at Division II Central Missouri and Northern Illinois before he was a head coach at Division III South Vermont, Division II St. Edward’s (Texas) and Division I Texas-Pan American and now an NAIA program in St. Francis. “I’ve known Ryan Marks for years and have a lot of respect for him as a coach,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “He’s a guy that, as a technician, is excellent. You just don’t hear about him because he’s not Division I level, but he’s a tremendous ball coach.”

Nice to see you again fans

The last time the Illini played in front of fans at State Farm Center, they were putting the finishing touches on the 2019-20 regular season with a 78-76 victory against Iowa that secured a double bye in the Big Ten tournament. A double bye, of course, that went unused as the Big Ten tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Underwood scheduled Saturday’s exhibition against St. Francis and next week’s against Indiana (Pa.) with purpose. He’s got nine players — two transfers, three freshmen and four sophomores — that have never been under the bright lights of a packed State Farm Center. “The reason I moved to two exhibitions games was to get those guys acclimated to that,” Underwood said. “I thought this year was a great opportunity coming off last season just wanting our fans to have an extra opportunity and wanting our fans to be able to see us as often as possible and, again, acclimate our guys.”

Defense first is foremost focus for Frazier

Scoring shouldn’t be a problem for Illinois in its first exhibition game of the season. The Illini have one of the most dominant centers in college basketball — and last year’s national dunks leader — in Kofi Cockburn, a veritable magician at point guard in Andre Curbelo and a slew of shooters around the ball screen actions between the former two. Trent Frazier is one of those shooters, but he has a different focus for Illinois’ exhibition games. “I think it’s establishing our defensive mindset right now,” the super senior guard said. “That’s a huge part right now. We’ve got to continue to get better at that. That’s what coach is all about. We were top 10 in defense last year. Our goal is top two. That’s where I want to get the guys on track with that and continue to get better with that every day.”

THE N-G’s Prediction

Illinois 114, St. Francis 71

The average margin of victory in Illinois’ last two exhibition games is 24.5 points following a 33-point thrashing of Division II Lewis ahead of the 2019-20 season and a 16-point win against Division III Illinois Wesleyan in 2018-19. (That doesn’t include, of course, the 80-67 loss to Eastern Illinois in 2017-18). Expect the outcome Saturday night at State Farm Center to lean more toward the Lewis game than the IWU game. The Illini should romp their way to victory given both their size and talent advantages. (Last year’s N-G prediction record: 23-8)

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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