Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey (click here to reach him). He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.
Remember that whole “recruit the world” thing Brad Underwood wants to do? It’s still happening.
While the entire Illinois men’s basketball team will head across the Atlantic on Sunday to start their foreign tour of Italy, assistant coach Jamall Walker got to experience a little more of what Europe has to offer this past weekend with a bonus trip to Greece. A working trip, of course. Not vacation.
The drive to the gym in the mountains of Portaria, Greece is some of best scenery I have ever seen. A picture truly painted by God! https://t.co/2rF1vJSxai— Jamall Walker (@jamallwalker) July 29, 2019
Walker was in Valos, Greece, for the FIBA U18 European Championship. Given Illinois’ additions from the continent in the 2018 and 2019 classes with Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, respectively, drilling down on more Euro talent probably isn’t a bad idea.
Walker is the second Illini assistant to hit Greece this summer. Orlando Antigua made the trip last month for the FIBA U19 World Cup where he got a chance to see Illinois targets Andre Curbelo (Puerto Rico), Jalen Suggs (USA) and Canadians Keon Ambrose-Hylton, Charles Bediako and Karim Mané.
A pair of Illini targets were also in Greece this past weekend in 2020 wing Samson Ruzhentsev (Russia) and 2021 forward Moussa Diabaté (France).
Ruzhentsev, a Moscow native, is a consensus four-star recruit ranked as high as No. 51 in the 2020 class by 247Sports. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound wing plays at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he averaged 17.4 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 38 percent from three-point range last season for the Hawks. He has other offers from Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Ole Miss, TCU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Diabaté is a five-star recruit in the 2021 class and ranked 12th overall by Rivals. The 6-9, 190-pound forward played last season at DME Sports Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla., but he was teaming up with former Illini Samba Kane at Florida Prep Academy in 2017-18 when Illinois first offered.
Diabaté, who also represented France at the FIBA U16 European Championship last year, played in four games for the Nightrydas Elite 17U team this spring on the Nike EYBL circuit and averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. The French big man has other offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Creighton, Florida, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Miami, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Texas Tech, Tulane, UNLV and Virginia Tech.
College basketball is simply becoming more of an international game, as it continues to mirror the NBA. The U19 World Cup featured multiple college players (including four on the Gonzaga roster, of course). Three more players were representing their home country and new college home this past weekend in Greece, too, in Nebraska’s Yvan Ouedraogo (France), Michigan’s Franz Wagner (Germany) and Kansas’ Tristan Enaruna (Netherlands).