The competition is hot for Florent Thamba right now, without much of a backup plan for a big man in this class, the Illini staff is exploring other avenues. I’m sure that the staff is looking into fifth year grad transfers at the center position.
Who those targets are, I don’t think anyone is really sure. The staff may not even know who they are pursuing at this point.
What we do know is that Underwood and Co. have been pursuing 2018 big man Valdir Manuel. They haven’t offered Manuel yet, and my guess is they are looking to see how the Thamba recruitment plays out.
Valdir Manuel: 6-foot-10 PF (St. Patrick-Elizabeth, NJ)
Manuel has definitely got Big Ten size (6-foot-10, 210 pounds), which makes him a formidable post prospect. Manuel is much like Thamba in that he would likely come in and contribute, adding immediate depth on the bench.
Manuel isn’t like Thamba in that his celebrity hasn’t gained much traction since the early signing period. His last offer came in May from Rhode Island. Manuel doesn’t have quite as impressive of an offer list as Thamba either, but he still has a solid list of high-profile offers under his belt.
His current offer list includes Memphis, Depaul, Temple, Seton Hall and Rutgers.
There isn’t a lot of tape on him, but he looks raw from what I saw. He has a strong body and the physical attributes to succeed in the Big Ten. He really just needs to become more polished.
Manuel sometimes struggles handling passes down on the block and seems to not have any real go-to moves he can lean on. That being said he is large and athletic enough to make it work at the high school level.
Manuel would be a heck of a project, but he could very well end up yielding strong results. If he can get some reps in under big man whisperer Orlando Antigua, who knows what the ceiling could be for him.
Having that kind of a sell to him is likely going to be huge going forward with his recruitment, and like I said, he is raw now, but he can be something special with some strong coaching.