Illinois had won 15 of their last 16 games before falling to Loyola Chicago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It had the makings of a magical season but it just didn’t come to fruition. They lost a couple of guys, including one of the best players in the country in Ayo Dosunmu. But they do get Kofi Cockburn back. That was a big question throughout a lot of the offseason. But even with their losses, Brad Underwood has his squad looking really good again.
Read more about number eleven Alabama here.
Preseason College Basketball: Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini
Ayo Dosunmu is obviously a massive loss. Adam Miller transferred to LSU and Giorgi Bezhanishvili went pro. But they are bringing in a good recruiting class and two impact transfers to replace them. Alfonso Plummer transfers in from Utah. He had a bit of a breakout year last year. His scoring should help aid in the loss of Miller at shooting guard. Omar Payne is a power forward transfer from Florida and should help ease the loss of Bezhanishvili.
Brad Underwood is bringing in the 4th ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten and the 23rd best in the country. The class contains three four-star recruits. Two of them are in the top 100 and the third one is just outside. Ramses Melendez and Luke Goode are both top 100 small forwards that should have roles off the bench. SG Brandin Podziemski is ranked just outside the top 100 at #107. He could have a role off the bench too.
The good thing is that even though they lost Dosunmu, they still have Andre Curbelo. He really could not have looked much better coming off the bench as a true freshman last season. Despite backing up Dosunmu he was great. He will take over the starting point guard duties this season. Curbelo is electric and so much fun to watch. He is already one of the best PGs in the Big Ten and could be an All-American candidate. Trent Frazier has started 107 games and played in 126 in his four years in Champaign. He is taking advantage of the free year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. Illinois veterans Da’Monte Williams and Jacob Grandison are back as well. The two of them pretty much split starting duties a season ago. I think both of them start out the season as starters this season.
As I mentioned before, whether or not Kofi Cockburn was going to return for this season was unknown for most of the offseason. First, he tested the NBA Draft waters, but he pulled his name out before the deadline. Then put his name in the transfer portal. But eventually, he decided to come back to Champaign for this year. Him coming back is massive. Cockburn is probably the best center in college basketball. Together with Curbelo they form what is arguably the best inside-outside duo in the nation.
C – #21 Kofi Cockburn (17.7 PPG/ 9.5 RPG/ 1.3 BPG)
G/F – #3 Jacob Grandison (4.6 PPG/ 3.4 RPG/ 1.3 APG)
G – #20 Da’Monte Williams (5.5 PPG/ 5.3 RPG/ 1.7 APG)
SG – #1 Trent Frazier (10.2 PPG/ 2.7 RPG/ 2.7 ASPG/ 1.3 SPG)
PG – #5 Andre Curbelo (9.1 PPG/ 4.0 RPG/ 4.2 APG)
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