Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.
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Illinois’ trip to Italy (T-minus four days to takeoff) is the first opportunity to see if the Giorgi Bezhanishvili/Kofi Cockburn frontcourt truly works. It’s one thing to pair the 6-foot-9 Georgian forward with the 7-foot Jamaican center in practice. Doing so in live game action in Italy will be the first true litmus test.
Illini coach Brad Underwood is confident it can be done. So is Bezhanishvili, who has spent extra time this offseason stretching his game to the perimeter. He’s into the thousands when it comes shots taken at Ubben Basketball Complex. Tuesday marked one of Illinois’ final days of preparation for Italy, and if the way Bezhanishvili was shooting the ball is any indication both the Illini sophomore and his coach may well be proven right.
During one shooting drill, Bezhanishvili was simply splashing three-pointers from the top of the key. His team that included Andres Feliz, Da’Monte Williams, Tevian Jones, Tyler Underwood and Zach Griffith more than held its own against the other half of the team. The half that included Trent Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu and Alan Griffin.
Going big in the frontcourt can work if Bezhanishvili shoots like that come November.
In other international travel news, assistant coach Jamall Walker is back in Champaign after spending four days in Greece recruiting at the FIBA U18 European Championships. Have to imagine his jet lag could be wild by the end of the week when Illinois lands in Milan (seven times zone away) to start its foreign tour.