Underwood staff

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood, center, watches from the bench with assistant coaches Orlando Antigua, left, and Jamall Walker during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern University at the State Farm Center, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Champaign, Ill.

Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois men's basketball coach Brad Underwood announced two changes to his coaching staff Tuesday. Stephen Gentry was hired as an assistant coach, while Jamall Walker will transition to a new role as assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator.

Gentry has spent the past two seasons as director of operations at Gonzaga for Bulldogs' coach Mark Few. The former Gonzaga guard previously spent four-plus seasons working with Underwood. Gentry was an assistant coach under Underwood at Stephen F. Austin, then served as director of player development at Oklahoma State. Gentry initially followed Underwood to Illinois as assistant to the head coach in spring 2017 before leaving for Gonzaga.

"I've said it often that Stephen has a great basketball mind, and he was a crucial piece to what we were able to accomplish at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State," Underwood said in a release. "I am excited to have him return to our bench coming off two incredibly successful years at Gonzaga with Coach Few. Stephen is gifted with Xs and Os and analytics and excels with player development. Given his familiarity with our system and our program, he will provide a seamless transition for our players."

Prior to joining Underwood's coaching staff at Stephen F. Austin, Gentry spent six seasons at Texas A&M — four as video coordinator and the final two as director of basketball operations — under then coach Billy Kennedy. That came after one season as a video intern with the Miami Heat. 

Walker, who is entering his eighth season at Illinois, spent the first seven as an assistant coach first under John Groce and then the past two with Underwood.

"Jamall is a talented young coach who, without question, has a future as a college head coach," Underwood said. "I saw that first-hand with the outstanding job he did leading the Illini during the 2017 NIT. He will work alongside me when it comes to the many responsibilities, opportunities, and issues that come across a head coach's desk every single day. This partnership will allow him to gain more experience in running a program, with the ultimate goal that the professional development opportunity allows him to realize his dream of becoming a division one head­­ coach."

The role of assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator was created for Walker to provide new responsibilities to prepare him to one day lead his own program. Walker served as interim coach after Groce was fired to finish out the 2016-17 season and went 2-1 in the NIT. He will work with Underwood on handling the daily coaching and administrative needs of the team, with emphasis placed on defensive game planning, preparations and analysis.

"I appreciate Coach Underwood providing this new role as I seek to gain experience in our industry that goes far beyond what happens on the court," Walker said. "I have invested so much in Fighting Illini Basketball over these last seven years and am motivated to continue pushing forward with this staff and help our program realize the success that everyone is working so hard to achieve." 

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

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).