December 31: A time for reflection.
While shaving off 10 pounds or getting a new job is going to be really hard for you, it’s crazy easy to gift New Year’s resolutions to friends and family, and it’s even easier to hand them out to people you don’t know personally but have a fantastical amount of happiness tied to.
The Illinois Men’s Basketball program hasn’t followed the trajectory we’ve hoped for over the past year. While the freshman class is talented and shows future potential, the on-court maturation and system adoption hasn’t passed the eye test nor earned wins. At the same time, recruit after recruit has bridesmaided Illinois to take his talents elsewhere while Brad Underwood and Co. sit without one signed recruit for the class of 2019.
It’s not all doom and gloom on the recruiting front, though; 6-foot-11 Antwan January, from California, is committed to join the crew, and there are good vibes on 6-foot-11 monster Kofi Cockburn out of Oak Hill Academy. But, alas, after a loss to Florida Atlantic we’re in such a dark place that it’s no longer a time to dream, but rather a time to address the things we can individually improve upon. And when I say “we”, I don’t really mean me, I mean those who are actually, professionally associated with Illinois basketball.
So starting from the first day of 2019, the following people are going to work on...
Athletic Director Josh Whitman: Pushing the #WeWillWin mindset and vision. Illinois revenue sports lack confidence, and you’re still the beacon of hope. Let that vision permeate through football and basketball.
Head Coach Brad Underwood: Convincing the team that your systems will work with some trust. Belichick’s “Do Your Job” is the simplest message in sports, but it means working as a team for the greater good. This 2018-19 team so far is way worse than the sum of its parts, and that’s because they’re discombobulated on both ends. Take the team into a room and review the Stephen F. Austin film (as I have done recently) and show them just how far from that vision they currently are. That’s beautiful basketball, and this is a clown show.
Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua: Getting into Chicago and St. Louis and seeing if he can start establishing some relationships similar to what he’s got in New York and New Jersey. Those are great, but Illinois is failing within its hot pocket.
Assistant Coach Chin Coleman: Getting to California a couple times and ironing out those Antwan January transcripts.
Assistant Coach Jamall Walker: I feel like you’re working from behind, so a couple things here: 1) Keep working Caleb Love and see if you can improve that St. Louis record you were kept on staff for; 2) Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu are two of the most talented guards Illinois has had in a decade, and they’re having trouble working together. I’m a believer that talented basketball players make each other better regardless of style, so being the guards’ coach, you should figure this out.
Senior Guard Aaron Jordan: Enjoying your senior year. It’s going to be the roughest win-loss year in recent history, but you deserve a better ending, so soak in all the admiration and enjoy your last semester. Also, congratulations on graduating and good luck in graduate school!
Senior Center Adonis De La Rosa: Getting healthy! At this point it’s obvious the knee isn’t back where it would need to be to be effective, so focus on yourself. There is money to be made overseas.
Junior Forward Kipper Nichols: This could have been last year’s resolution as well, but consistent energy. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, and with above-average athleticism, your impact should be a staple.
Junior Forward Andres Feliz: Moving your feet laterally. You do a great job of pestering opposing guards down the court, but you have trouble just staying in front of people in the half court. It’s not a physical limitation, just play within the defense and move your feet.
Junior Forward Samson Oladimeji: Pushing Samba Kane and Giorgi Bezhanishvilli every day in practice, and letting them know when you’re outworking them to the ball in rebounding drills.
Junior Guard Drew Cayce: Putting in extra work in the film room and showing the coaches you have the ability to plow through film. That’ll not only help the current team, but it will put you on a shortlist for GA jobs once you’re done.
Sophomore Guard Trent Frazier: Staying positive. Sure you could go at the rim a little better and work on your free throws, but you’re an awesome player and Illinois is going to need your swagger in the next couple years.
Sophomore Guard Damonte Williams: Shooting and shooting and shooting. Your shot looks much improved, so it’s going to go down.
Sophomore Wing Zach Griffith: Enjoying the ride. Walking on at the hometown school is awesome.
Freshman Guard Ayo Dosunmu: Playing lower. You have a natural glide that’s awesome on the break and in fast pace games, but you play so high that you have trouble with quickness and ball security in the half court. Practice playing lower and you’ll be able to weave in and out of traffic in all styles.
Freshman Guard Alan Griffin: Tightening up that ball handling and getting used to the quickness of opposing players — they’re like you now.
Freshman Wing Tevian Jones: You’re being tested by the head coach, and if you persevere, you’ll prosper.
Freshman Forward Georgi Bezchanchivilli: Your basketball IQ is so high it’s time to learn what’s currently a good shot for you. More shots at the elbow, less from the 3-point line — we know you can hit it, but there is a reason you’re open.
Freshman Center Samba Kane: The good morning and good night protein shakes are going to be your friend.
Freshman Forward Anthony Higgs: Getting healthy.
Junior Guard Tyler Underwood: Make the best of the situation. Keep playing your role when you get in the game, and don’t let those on social media get you down because you have showed you belong at this level in some role.
Orange Krush Student Section: One of the most impressive parts about Indiana’s resurgence in Tom Crean’s early years was that the crowd kept showing up and making an impact. You’ve been funeral silent for some time now, and that’s not acceptable.
The Rest of Us: You all deserve so much better, but stop embarrassing yourselves on social media. And don’t @ me that all fanbases do it. Of course there are dumb people in every crowd, that doesn’t mean raising your hand at the stupid election is permissible.
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