CHAMPAIGN — Player after player flooded the transfer portal in March. Last year’s total number of transfers was topped by the end of the month. More than 1,000 newly available players.
Illinois avoided that month’s worth of roster churn. April? Now that’s a different story.
The Illini suffered a rather significant blow Thursday with freshman guard Adam Miller entering the transfer portal.
“Adam was a big part of our success this season, starting every game as a freshman and contributing not just on offense but defensively, as well,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said in an official statement. “He has a very bright future ahead, and we wish him all the best.”
The ramification of Miller’s intent to transfer just ramps up Illinois’ offseason roster reconstruction. The Illini were already in the hunt for backcourt help before Miller entered the portal with Ayo Dosunmu likely moving on after the 2020-21 season. That only intensifies now with Miller out of the picture.
The Illini have open offers to Class of 2021 guards Brandin Podziemski, TyTy Washington, Wesley Cardet and Jaylen Blakes and expressed interest this week in Tamar Bates, who decommitted from Texas after Shaka Smart left to be Marquette’s new coach.
The transfer portal, nearing 1,200 available players with April just starting, could also be an option. Texas Tech transfer and former Illini recruiting target Nimari Burnett is set to make an April 8 decision, with Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Oregon, USC and Vanderbilt also in the running. Illinois has also been linked with Florida transfer guard Noah Locke.
Miller likely would have played a key role at Illinois in 2021-22 after starting all 31 games this past season. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard opened some eyes when he set a program record with 28 points in his debut, which included knocking down 6 of 8 three-pointers in Illinois’ season-opening win against North Carolina A&T.
Miller scored in double figures in 13 games and set his Big Ten scoring high with 18 points against Nebraska with Dosunmu sidelined in late February. His role fluctuated throughout the season, but he ultimately averaged 8.3 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 39.1 percent overall and 34 percent from three-point range.
Miller was part of a 1-2 recruiting coup for Illinois in the Class of 2020 along with fellow guard Andre Curbelo. The Peoria native was a consensus four-star recruit and was ranked as high as No. 30 in the class by ESPN, choosing the Illini from a top three that also included Arizona and Louisville.
Miller committed to Illinois on Nov. 21, 2019, and signed on April 22, 2020, which was about three months before Dosunmu pulled his name out of the NBA draft and opted to return for a third season with the Illini. That decision altered what Miller’s role would be in Champaign, but the Illinois freshman consistently mentioned during the season what he was learning from his former high school teammate at Morgan Park.
“For me, I was never really a guy rushing to leave,” Miller said toward the end of the 2020-21 season. “I’m a winner. I came here to win. I came here to get better. It’s not like I had my bags packed or anything like that. I came to play for this school. To have (Dosunmu) here really has helped me.
“My production might not be as much, but we’re winning and I’m learning in the process. He’s been in those shoes, and he’s teaching me a lot. It might not show on the stat sheet or might not come up big every night, but I’ve grown a lot. I feel like the more chances I get to show that, people will see it.”
Miller’s decision to transfer, Dosunmu likely leaving for the NBA, the chance Kofi Cockburn could do the same and uncertainty whether seniors Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams will take advantage of their pandemic-related bonus year of eligibility means Illinois might have to replace the bulk of its rotation for the 2021-22 season. Should all of them leave, that would mean the Illini would lose five of their top six scorers, with only Curbelo left standing among that group. Junior forwards Jacob Grandison and Giorgi Bezhanishvili were the other two players in what was mostly an eight-man rotation by the end of this past season.