College/Prep Sports Reporter

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


Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette Illinois during Illini basketball practice at Ubben on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019.

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Episode 70: Will Illinois crack the AP preseason Top 25?

Good afternoon everybody. That special time of the week has come again, as I answer all of your Illinois basketball questions. Well, mostly basketball. There is one football question in the mix, too.

Let's get to it ... 

Do you have a latest update on Adam Miller recruitment? Rumors are saying that Arizona State has pulled back on recruitment. The chances seem good for the Ayo Dosunmu replacement. -- Craig V.

The only public change in Adam Miller's recruitment is his announcement of a top five soon after his official visit to Illinois. Arizona State, Arizona, Kansas and Wake Forest were also included. Miller has taken three of his five official visits, so he could still visit Kansas and Wake Forest if he wants.

I wouldn't say that Arizona has pulled back. Miller is still a legitimate option for the Sun Devils, and some national recruiting analysts (like Rivals' Corey Evans) have Bobby Hurley's program as the current favorite. That said, Illinois is still a major player in Miller's recruitment and have perhaps made it a two-horse race. But it's still recruiting. Anything can happen.

Now that you've seen Kofi Cockburn, albeit a small sample size, what's your take? On the Benjamin Bonsman-Verdonk injury, what is his leg issue? Why doesn't the AD just say, it's a hammy, stress fracture, shin splints? Why the secrecy? -- Sam B.

Small sample size is right. I've got two open practices worth of real time watching Kofi Cockburn play, but that's still allowed me to formulate at least some early thoughts and opinions. Cockburn is running the floor better now than he did in the brief snippets I saw in the summer. Dropping 14 pounds and spending concerted effort on his conditioning has helped.

Also, it hasn't changed his ability to rip the rim off. I really like the combination of Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu when the latter runs offense through the former in the pinch post. Those dribble handoffs (or rolls to the basket ending in an alley oop) could be really good.

Still, Cockburn is a freshman. There's still moments where he's unsure of where to be or what to do next in the offense. I'm also not 100 percent sold on a frontcourt of him and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. In small doses? Could be devastating for Illinois' opponents. Long term, though, I think it limits Bezhanishvili more from what he's fully capable of doing on the court.

All coaches lock down when it comes to injuries. It's just the way they are (not wanting to give an opponent any type of advantage). Plus, they can lean on HIPPA and FERPA when it comes to not releasing details about medical health. That said, while nothing official has ever been released, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (probably) had a stress fracture in his leg. He's been cleared, and I'd imagine it's only a matter of time before he gets worked back in on the court.

Do you feel that Giorgi Bezhanishvili is going to be as much of a factor at the 4? I like having a true center. However, I don't want less from Giorgi to accommodate Kofi Cockburn. -- Marty A.

To be determined. At this point, though, I think Giorgi Bezhanishvili is probably more effective at the 5. He was a really solid low post scorer last season and didn't shoot three-pointers all that well. The open practice saw him on the perimeter quite a bit when he was matched up on the same team as Kofi Cockburn or Jermaine Hamlin. I don't recall him making a shot from beyond the arc. 

Could it become a better option for Illinois as the season progresses? Sure. I don't think Bezhanishvili is a 16.7 percent three-point shooter like he was last year. He's got a better stroke than that. Consistency just isn't there yet or maybe even the willingness to take those shots. Obviously he played without Cockburn in Italy, but Bezhanishvili only attempted three three-pointers and they were all in the first of the four games.

Illinois can utilize Bezhanishvili's skills as a passer when he's at the 4, but that's something Cockburn will have to show as well. An ideal would be some high-low action between the two where roles can be easily flipped. We'll see.

What is the difference between the Illini and Arizona State (football)? ASU with two years in the Herm Edwards hire and a top 25 team. -- Neil R.

A good place to start is probably with what Herm Edwards inherited in terms of a football program. Arizona State wasn't exactly unsuccessful with Todd Graham at the helm. He went 46-32 in six seasons, won 10 games twice (with Dennis Erickson's players mostly) and made five bowl games in his tenure. The lone season without a bowl game wasn't even his last.

So you can't objectively say Lovie Smith was on equal footing with Edwards for what the program was like when they started their new jobs, respectively. That said, both Graham and Edwards have recruited better than Smith. Graham's last class was better than Smith's first full class in 2017. The Graham/Edwards class in 2018 was better than Smith's, too. Overall ranking wise, the same holds true for 2019, although the average ranking per prospect is closer.

Overall better recruiting is one thing. What you do with said recruits once they're on your roster, though, is another. I just did a quick Google and found a story that might illustrate Edwards' quicker success. The headline? "As No. 17 ASU visits No. 13 Utah, Herm Edwards not stuck on one style"

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).