While the rest of college basketball was dealing with transfers left and right by mid-April, Brad Underwood wasn’t.
The Illinois men’s basketball coach even addressed the topic during his team’s annual end-of-the season banquet.
“I think there’s 724 in the portal (on April 15),” Underwood said that night at the I Hotel in Champaign. “As of (April 15), there’s nobody from Illinois. I think that speaks volumes to the relationship building, to the character (and) to the culture we want here at the University of Illinois in our program.”
Well, since Underwood uttered those words, two players have decided to transfer, both from the Illini’s class of 2018. One is Anthony Higgs, a freshman forward who didn’t play last season while dealing with a foot injury and announced on May 7 he would leave Illinois.
The second happened on Friday with center Samba Kane. Team spokesman Derrick Burson confirmed Kane has entered the transfer portal after ESPN's Jeff Borzello first reported the move.
The 7-foot, 220-pound Kane played limited minutes as a freshman last season, averaging 1.5 points and 0.5 rebounds while appearing in 18 games.
The departure of Kane leaves Illinois with two open scholarships at the moment for the 2019-2020 season.
Kane, a native of Senegal, committed to the Illini in March 2018, but missed summer workouts in 2018 while waiting for academic clearance to the university.
He finished his high school career at Florida Prep Academy, where he averaged 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds his senior season.
Kane didn't play in the first five games last season for Illinois, making his debut on Nov. 25 with six points in 12 minutes during the Illini's 86-67 home win against Mississippi Valley State.
His best game with the Illini happened almost two weeks later when he scored a season-high eight points in a season-high 16 minutes to help Illinois beat UNLV 77-74 on Dec. 8.
But minutes were hard to come by for Kane during Big Ten play, with him only seeing the court for a combined 33 minutes in 12 games against conference foes.
His role for the 2019-2020 season was likely one off the bench with Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kofi Cockburn projected to secure most of the minutes in the frontcourt. Plus, Illinois signed another post player in 6-10 Bernard Kouma in the 2019 class and added 6-7 Belgium native Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk last month.
Underwood has signed 10 high school or junior college players since he arrived at Illinois in March 2017. Kane's departure marks the fifth player recruited by Underwood to leave the Illini with eligibility remaining, joining Higgs, Greg Eboigbodin, Mark Smith and Matic Vesel.