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The Class of 2018 will decide Brad Underwood’s Future

Now that Brad Underwood has “his” guys, it’s time to see what he’s got.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

On the first day of the signing period yesterday, all five remaining Illinois basketball commits signed their letter of intent. The class of 2018 is now set with six new players coming in after another major roster turnover for the Fighting Illini.

The Illinois class is ranked the 28th best nationally by 247 Sports, and seventh in the conference. The class of 2017 was ranked 30th nationally.

Illinois added some serious length and athleticism at every position with this class. Ayo Dosunmu and Tevian Jones should provide plenty of scoring options to help Trent Frazier and replace the production of Leron Black.

Illinois Basketball 2018 Recruits

Name Posistion Height Weight Hometown
Name Posistion Height Weight Hometown
Ayo Dosunmu G 6-5 185 Chicago, Ill.
Tevian Jones G 6-7 200 Culver City, Calif.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili F 6-9 230 Vienna, Austria
Andres Feliz G 6-2 185 Guachupita, Dominican Republic
Alan Griffin G 6-5 180 Ossining, N.Y.
Samba Kane C 7-0 220 Dakar, Senegal

This is a good class for Illinois, with a lot of potential. Illinois plugged some major gaps on its roster, while adding some much needed scoring and quality depth players that are needed to run a fast-paced system well. If I had to give a grade for this class, I would say it’s a very solid B+.

Head Coach Brad Underwood and the Illini had a difficult time last season with the transition of coaching staffs. The core of the roster was filled with players who didn’t fit his system well — outside of Trent Frazier — and had major depth issues with the front court.

Illinois only returns six players — Kipper Nichols, Aaron Jordan, Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, Matic Vesel and Greg Eboigbodin — from last season’s roster who saw meaningful playing time. The last remaining marks of the John Groce era are Nichols and Jordan.

For all intents and purposes, this is Brad Underwood’s team now. Underwood and his staff were able to plug some of the holes in the roster, and added six new players recruited that fit the style of play Illinois is hoping for.

Underwood finally has a roster that fits his system, and we will begin to see if his aggressive style of defense, and his open flowing offensive system can be successful in the uber physical Big Ten. The future success or failure of the Illini falls upon the viability of Underwood’s system, and this recruiting class.

Let’s fast forward two seasons. The 2019-20 season will be Underwood’s third at the helm of the program. This will likely be the ‘put up or shut up’ season for the current staff. Dosunmu may or may not still be with the program should he decide to turn pro, but regardless, the core of the team will be from the class of 2018.

Assuming Dosunmu stays for a second season, starters will likely be Frazier, Dosunmu, Jones, Kipper Nichols (or Girogi Bezhanishvili), and Samba Kane in the middle. A deep bench will depend on Feliz and Griffin to be the main offensive threats, further supplemented by Greg Eboigbodin, Bezhanishvili and Da’Monte Williams.

Six players in this proposed ten-man rotation will be from the current class, and build up the main core of the roster. Even if Dosunmu turns pro, the class of 2018 will get the majority of minutes on the court. If this recruiting class develops well, Illinois should see great improvement and, at the very least, an NCAA Tournament bid.

On the other hand, if Dosunmu does indeed go one-and-done — can’t blame him if he does, get that money — and the recruits don’t develop into Underwood’s system as he would like, or struggle as Mark Smith did, this team could see some major issues, and again miss out on postseason play. Underwood could be put on the hot seat, and it would spell out the beginning of the end.

A lot is riding on this recruiting class. These six players can represent the point where Illinois finally turned it around after a mostly directionless decade of play, or it could represent more of the unrealized potential that has defined Illinois Basketball in the 2010s.

With a roster now full of his #EveryDayGuys, it’s time for Brad Underwood to show the Big Ten what he’s got.