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.
Meyers Leonard might not be the only former Illinois basketball player in the NBA next season. He might not even be the only former Illini playing in Miami since the Heat signed Kendrick Nunn in April. While just $4,737 of Nunn’s deal with Miami was guaranteed, he got a three-year contract potentially worth more than $3 million.
Nunn is on Miami’s Summer League roster and has played well enough in the California Classic in Sacramento to make the Heat want to hold onto him. He’ll get another opportunity to show his game in the full Summer League starting today in Las Vegas.
Nunn didn’t play in the Classic opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, but led the Heat with 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals while shooting 4 of 8 from three-point range in Tuesday’s victory against the Sacramento Kings. He was nearly as good on Wednesday — 21 points, three assists and two steals plus 3 of 7 three-point shooting — as the Heat finished the California Classic 3-0.
Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman delivered a loud and clear message with Tuesday dismissal of two-year starter.
Nunn spent last season playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League after signing a partially guaranteed deal with Golden State last summer. The 6-foot-3 lefty guard helped lead Santa Cruz to the G League playoffs after averaging 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while posting a 47/33 / 86 shooting slash line.
Nunn, 23, scored just more than 1,000 points in three seasons at Illinois before being dismissed from the team by then coach John Groce on May 24, 2016, six days after pleading guilty to a single count of misdemeanor battery. He finished his college career at Oakland, earning Horizon League Player of the Year honors for the 2017-18 season after averaging 25.9 points (behind only Trae Young nationally), 4.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Former Centennial and Illinois guard Rayvonte Rice is also playing in Las Vegas for the Phoenix Suns. Rice, who played two seasons with the Illini after two seasons at Drake, played in both Mexico and Italy in the 2018-19 season. The 6-5 guard appeared in a dozen games for Soles de Mexicali in the top Mexican league and averaged 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Rice then moved on to Termoforgia Aurora Jesi in Serie A2 for six games and averaged 27.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the second tier Italian league.