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 on Brad Underwood’s team.
Preseason games are underway in the NBA, with the Miami Heat playing their first on Tuesday at home against the San Antonio Spurs. It was the Miami debut for both Meyers Leonard and Kendrick Nunn — the only former Illini still in the league. Several other former Illinois men’s basketball players will ply their trade overseas for the 2019-20 season:
Black will start his first season with Clube de Regatas Do Flamengo in the top Brazilian league on Oct. 12. The 6-foot-7 forward put up 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last year for Argentino Junin in Argentina’s top league in his first professional season.
Hill started in his debut Sunday for Astana in the VTB United League, which is mostly Russian teams with some from neighboring countries like Astana from the Kazakhstan National League. Hill, who missed last season with a torn ACL, had 17 points, three assists and two rebounds in Astana’s loss to UNICS Kazan.
The start of the Centennial grad’s pro career has him in Poland’s top league. He played in all four games for Legia Warszawa in its Champions League qualifiers last month and averaged 10.3 points and five rebounds while shooting 50 percent from three-point range.
After putting up monster numbers last season in China, Paul landed at Olimpiacos B.C., which left the top league in Greece amidst a feud with rival Panathinaikos and will only play in EuroLeague games. Paul made his Olimpiacos debut last Friday and had two points and five rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench in a loss.
The Centennial grad landed in the VTB United League with Avtodor Saratov after spending last season in Iran and getting a shot with the Phoenix Suns’ Summer League team this past summer. Rice came off the bench for Avtodor and had 13 points and three rebounds Sunday in a loss to Stelmet Enea.
Smith returned for a second year with UNICS Kazan in the VTB United League after putting up solid numbers last season. He had 22 points in an Oct. 2 EuroCup loss to Italian squad Germani Grescia Leonessa and then had 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench in Sunday’s win against Hill and Astana.
Tate came off the bench in one of two Champions League qualifiers for BK Ventspils last month, his first two games for the team in the Latvian Basketball League. Tate played a key role last season for Pyrinto Tampere in the top Finnish league, averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 assists and 2.5 rebounds.
Vesel will return to LTH Castings Skofja Loka in his native Slovenia this season. The one-and-done former Illini returned home after a single season in Champaign and averaged 11.2 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 53 percent overall and 40 percent from three-point range last season.
Note: Nnanna Egwu (New Zealand), Jereme Richmond (Dominican Republic) and Adonis De La Rosa (Dominican Republic) all played for teams that finished their 2019 seasons this past summer.