SAVOY — Kendall Gill isn’t much of a golfer.
He acknowledged as much Monday, prior to addressing a record-setting crowd of 50 quartets for the 30th golf outing in his name at the University of Illinois Orange and Blue Courses.
“My golf game is just as good as Vincent Goodwill’s basketball game,” said Gill, referencing a former NBC Sports Chicago reporter. “That’s terrible.”
Then there was the matter of Gill leaving his golf shoes at home.
It’s something that’s become as much an annual tradition as the outing bearing his name that directs funds to Cunningham Children’s Home.
“I had to go up and buy me a new pair of golf shoes,” Gill said. “So what my wife said is, ‘OK, what we’re going to do this year is we’re going to leave them at the pro shop.’”
Probably not worth asking Gill who’s the favorite for next week’s British Open then.
On basketball matters, however, the former Flyin’ Illini standout has an opinion that holds plenty of weight.
And he’s got a positive one about the direction in which Brad Underwood’s Illinois program is trending.
“They’re going to be able to compete this year,” Gill said. “One more year of maturity, one more year of growth. You’re getting players in here that really want to win and really want to work hard.”
At the forefront of that, in Gill’s mind, is reigning Big Ten All-Freshman first-team selection Ayo Dosunmu.
A 16-year NBA veteran, Gill offered a powerful comparison for Dosunmu.
“Kenny Battle, of course, has the Kenny Battle Award here. He was the hardest worker (on the Flyin’ Illini), and then we fell in line with Kenny Battle,” Gill said. “That’s what it seems like Ayo is doing for this program.”
Underwood said Monday that Gill has yet to speak with his 2019-2020 roster, though the 1990 Illinois graduate has done so in the past.
It’s safe to say Underwood looks forward to Gill’s next opportunity to drop by either State Farm Center or the Ubben Basketball Complex.
“It’s a great teaching moment for our guys to see that a guy that had his success, not only collegiality, but at the NBA level, still comes back,” Underwood said. “When you have great, great programs, the alumni — the guys who sweat equity — they come back and invest, and he’s doing that.”
Underwood’s current roster also is putting in the hours, with a slate of summer practices between Monday and Wednesday preceding an Underwood recruiting assignment.
One item on the Illini’s docket for these workouts is adjusting to the International Basketball Federation’s 24-second shot clock, which will be in play during Illinois’ exhibition games during its August trip to Italy.
The college game downsized its own shot clock — from 35 seconds to 30 — prior to the 2015-16 season. So trimming another six seconds in this overseas landscape offers Underwood and his staff a chance to test the Illini.
“I’m actually really excited about that,” Underwood said, “and to see how we make decisions in that timeframe.”
It’s a mindset Underwood can afford to adopt, considering he doesn’t have to be nearly as worried about roster turnover as he did the previous summer.
Illinois lost just four members from its 2018-19 group — among them senior Aaron Jordan and graduate transfer Adonis De La Rosa — and boasts 12 returnees.
“It’s a comfort knowing our guys know what we’re talking about,” Underwood said. “They become our leaders. They’re the guys teaching the new guys, and that’s been a lot of fun.”