By The Numbers
The 6-foot-9 true freshman forward averaged 2.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 fouls per game in 10.6 minutes per game in his first season with the Fighting Illini. Eboigbodin started two games as a true freshman and saw more meaningful court time than anyone, including him, expected. Spicy G’s abilities are still very raw. Like the entire roster, he struggled with foul trouble this year and was worst on the team and averaged one foul every five minutes played.
Eboigbodin didn’t begin to make much of an impact until conference play. His minutes in conference increased drastically and he averaged 14 minutes. In nonconference play, he played double digit minutes only three times. Since the restart of conference play on Jan. 3, he only played less than 10 minutes three times.
In conference play, Spicy G averaged 2.9 rebounds per game which was good for fifth on the team in the fewest amount of minutes for the 10 rotation players. He shot 24/37 (65 percent) from the field which led the team and 8/18 (44.4 percent) from the line — the worst on the team. Eboigbodin’s shots came at the rim, and those are the only shots he should be taking. Hopefully he will be drawing many more fouls so he will need to improve his touch from the line.
Impact on the Illini
Before we dive into some of Eboigbodin’s advanced Big Ten numbers, it’s important to remember we are dealing with a small sample size due to his issues with fouling and playing smart and consistent defense.
Eboigbodin was second on the Illini in ORtg at 116.6 points scored per 100 possessions (Black led the team at 118.3), and was third on the team in DRtg at 111.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. Therefore, Eboigbodin was second on the Illini in Net Rating at +5.4. The only other Illini players with a positive net rating in conference play are Nichols (+6.3), Black (+3.8) and Jordan (+0.6). This basically means, with A LOT of extrapolation, that Illinois’ best lineups this season were lineups with Spicy G on the floor. The Illini desperately needed length and athleticism down low to block shots and cover up mistakes from the perimeter pressure defense. Additionally, Eboigbodin sets some of the best screens on the team and Brad Underwood was able to use different lineups and different sets with him in the game.
Another advanced statistic that loves Spicy G is Defensive Box Plus/Minus. DBPM is a box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team. Eboigbodin led the Illini in that statistic at +4.2. The next closest was Mark Alstork and Da’Monte Williams at +3.
Spicy G needs to improve his footwork, technique and foul much much less. However, if he can do that and stay on the floor he can be a valuable piece for Underwood.
Spicy G’s Best Game
Eboigbodin’s highlight game from the 2017-18 season came on Jan. 6 at Michigan. Spicy G played 16 minutes and had a career-high 10 points on 5/5 shooting, six rebounds and 2 blocks.
It’s easy to go 5/5 when you get looks like these. Ebo runs to the rim and finishes on the lob from Te’Jon:
Te'Jon Ebo pic.twitter.com/p5BrzjhEeI— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) January 6, 2018
This is Spicy G at his best, run to the rim and finish the play or grab the rebound. Eboigbodin has the tools to do this better than anyone on the current Illinois roster. He shouldn’t have the ball in his hands for more than 2 seconds at any one time.
Let’s take a look at a defensive highlight:
Ebo☝ pic.twitter.com/nxssII1PKz— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) January 6, 2018
Ooooh, that was pretty, can we have another?
Ebo☝ ☝ pic.twitter.com/6mrB6sM8Zu— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) January 6, 2018
It’s a sight for sore eyes. On both plays, Spicy G moves his feet, avoids the foul and uses his length to easily and strongly block the ball out of bounds. The Illini need to bring in another player who can do that next season. However, Spicy G is the only player on the current roster who can have a defensive impact like this, so his role is going to need to included.
Eboigbodin is the closest skillset to an impactful defensive big Illinois has had since Egwu.
The Quick and Dirty
Eboigbodin surpassed a lot of people’s expectations. It did not necessarily translate to winning yet, but there is hope for the future.
With a player like Spicy G you don’t always know what you are going to get until you see him on the floor. There are plenty of flaws and areas for improvement in his game, but he showed flashes this year that he can hang with skilled and experienced Big Ten players.
I’m excited by what Eboigbodin can bring to this team. He made a great first impression in his freshman season and left us all wondering if his ceiling is higher than we originally thought.