Brad Underwood and his staff received a huge commitment last month in 7-foot center Samba Kane. Kane is originally from Senegal and played high school basketball for Florida Preparatory Academy.
Kane provides the Illini front-court with much needed length and athleticism. Illinois’ defensive FG% at the rim was amongst the worst in the country last year. Underwood and the staff are hoping Kane can be a large part of the solution to that problem. Kane is an ideal big man for Underwood’s style of play. He’s long and athletic and can run rim to rim. He has potential to develop a more polished back-to-the-basket offensive game while in Champaign, but that’s not necessity, especially right away.
Let’s get into what we might see in the short term and long term from Samba Kane.
Worst Case Scenario
Kane is an international big man prospect who has reclassified from the class of 2019 up to the class of 2018 so there are even more unknowns and question marks than a more traditional prospect. The fear is that those unknowns last the entirety of his freshman season.
It’s very possible that Kane comes to campus and simply isn’t ready for this level of basketball right out of the gate. If the speed of the game gives him problems, he could be a foul machine early on and not be able to stay on the floor.
Not only would this hurt the 2018-19 team, but it would hurt Kane’s development for the future as well. He needs as many reps and as much live game action as possible.
Best Case Scenario
Kane is going to have an opportunity right away as a freshman. I would suspect that Spicy G will have the trust of Underwood and the upper hand on the starting center position, but it’s entirely possible that Kane is the clear-cut starter by the time conference play roles around. If Kane can adjust to the speed of the game, stay out of foul trouble and learn his responsibilities in Underwood’s system, he would instantly become one of the most valuable pieces on the Illini roster.
Ideally, Illini fans would love to see two or three Kane dunks per game, along with a block or two to cover up the openings given up by Underwood’s perimeter pressure defense. If Kane can play 20-plus minutes of solid defense and give the Illini five points, four boards and one or two blocks per game, that would provide a huge lift and be a very successful freshman campaign.
As for his career, Kane has the potential to find himself on the all-time Illini leaderboard for blocked shots and rebounds. He has the opportunity to be a 3-4 year starter and be the anchor to the teams that could bring the University back to the NCAA Tournament after a long hiatus.
Most Realstic Scenario
Kane will likely play backup center minutes to either Spicy G or a player not currently on the roster. Kane will probably end up playing 10-15 minutes a game and be able to provide better rim protection than anyone else on last year’s team. He’ll be able to bring some explosive alley-oops on offense, but likely not much more.
While his length and size will make him an exciting option on defense, he will likely battle foul trouble as most freshman bigs do. His fouls per minute and defensive oversights will be frustrating but his defensive potential will be obvious.
Kane is a rim runner and an athlete that has the skills necessary to succeed in Underwood’s system. Hopefully with Kane it is a matter of “when” — and not “if” — he can contribute in Champaign. Expect some bumps in the road his freshman year, but Kane has the makeup of a solid contributor to the Illini frontcourt for years to come.