Brad Underwood Reconstructs Illinois Squad via the Portal Following Six Major Program Exits
With some of the nation’s top players leaving Illinois this offseason including Kofi Cockburn and Trent Frazier who’ll test the NBA Draft, as well as Andre Curbelo, Jacob Grandison, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk all transferring away, head coach Brad Underwood has taken this opportunity to reconstruct his Illini squad with a few transfer additions of his own. Following three major commitments all joining from the Big 12, Illinois seems to have new life heading into the 2022-23 season in search of a third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid after what early on looked to be a rebuilding year in Champaign.
Illinois Transfer Additions:
Terrence Shannon Jr., Texas Tech
10.4 PPG / 2.6 RPG / 2 APG
Dain Dainja, Baylor
2 PPG / 1 RPG / 0 APG
Matthew Mayer, Baylor
9.8 PPG / 5 RPG / 1 APG
All three of Illinois’ latest transfers are former top-100 prospects, while Shannon garnered Big 12 All-Freshman honors in 2020 and Matthew Mayer boasts an NCAA Championship pedigree having won with Baylor in 2021. But this Illini team is still very young and has some question marks particularly in the ball-handing department as well as at the forward position where Underwood lacks depth.
Luckily, Illinois’ incoming 2022 freshman class is currently ranked 7th in the nation according to 247Sports and features 4 committed prospects such as four-star guard Skyy Clark (No. 31 Nationally), four-star forward Ty Rodgers (No. 49 Nationally), and four-star guard Jayden Epps (No. 68 Nationally), all of whom will earn important minutes in year one.
Clark looks set to slide into that lead guard position with Epps and four-star guard Sencire Harris backing up Clark and Shannon while Rodgers; who’s been electric playing with the United States U-18’s at FIBA’s America’s Championship, will provide some of that much-needed depth.
Last season’s #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament will be tough to match but with all these new transfer additions and three top-100 incoming freshmen, this is a team that seems very confident in its abilities in spite of the youthful nature of its roster and has the pieces to put together another strong in-conference campaign.
With Illinois offseason nearing its end, here’s what we expect the Fightin’ Illini’s starting five will look like for the beginning of next season.
TRP’s Projected Lineup for Illinois:
Skyy Clark, G
Terrence Shannon, G
Matthew Mayer, G/F
Coleman Hawkins, F
Dain Dainja, C