College/Prep Sports Reporter

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

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Illinois head coach Brad Underwood heads out to the floor in a NCAA basketball game at the State Farm Center in Champaign on Tuesday, Jan. 31,2023.

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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:

Illinois coach Brad Underwood created quite the buzz when he showed up in Fairbury last week. The postponement of the Illini's game against Minnesota allowed Underwood the opportunity to make the 58-mile trip on a Tuesday night, and he got look at Central Catholic guard and 2024 recruiting target Cole Certa in the process.

"That was so awesome," Underwood said of his trip to Fairbury to watch some high-level, small school basketball. Prairie Central's Dylan Bazzell outdueled Certa and had 34 points in the Hawks' win.

"There wasn’t a seat to be had," Underwood continued. "A high, high, high level game. Everybody was so proud. A gentleman I was sitting next to, I have no idea who he was, but he was very talkative. The middle of the third quarter there’s a gentleman on the other side running in front of the students and the fans. He goes, ‘That’s a preacher at one of our local churches.’

"It’s not every day you see the preacher at the Baptist church, I think he said, getting the student body fired up. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it. It’s what makes basketball special. It’s what I grew up with in my hometown. Pretty fun."

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