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Illinois Basketball Player Preview: Matic Vesel

Get to know the Slovenian big man.

Player Preview: Matic Vesel

Matic Vesel is a 6-foot-10 stretch-four from Slovenia. He played last year for the Helios Suns, a professional team from his home country. Vesel also participated in the U-18 FIBA games last summer as a member of the U-20 Slovenian national team. The fifth member of Illinois’s 2017 recruiting class also holds the title for the coolest name in the Big Ten.

What He Did Last Year:

Vesel notched averages of 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds during the European Championships and a high of 14 points and 13 rebounds in his last game against Turkey. Here are some of his highlights for the Helios Suns from last year:

How Does He Fit Into Underwood’s System:

If this video is any indicator, Vesel should blend into Underwood’s system beautifully. He utilizes his size and athleticism to master the boards. However, much like fellow freshman Greg Eboigbodin, he is going to be a project for strength coach Adam Fletcher. Vesel’s game is much more finesse than muscle right now, and that will need to change in order for him to be a successful big man in the conference. His game should translate directly over to this new scheme. Vesel has shown the ability to run the floor, handle the ball and pick-and-roll. With some added strength he has the potential to be a premier front-court guy in two years.

What to Expect This Year:

I wouldn’t expect much out of Matic Vesel this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t see significant minutes. Leron Black is known for getting in foul trouble, and this should offer Vesel plenty of early opportunities. It will be interesting to see how he fares and whether or not he capitalizes. Eboigbodin and Vesel added more depth to an undersized squad this year, and that will have its advantages and disadvantages. There will be some early mistakes this year as he transitions from the European game to college, and his strength poses questions, but getting him experience will pay far more dividends than anything that might happen this year. This is a rebuilding year for the Illini, and it should be about getting the young guys playing time. Underwood will rely on juniors Michael Finke and Leron Black to guide both Vesel and Eboigbodin this year. He will play an instrumental role in a recruiting class that should make some noise a couple years down the road.