2018-19 Big Man Situation

Underwood has brought in an impressive class of guards and wings for the upcoming season, Ayo and Tevian Jones are as good any 2 recruits that the Illini have added in any given year. Add to the mix JUCO transfer Andres Feliz and the Illini should have a deep and exciting guard/wing rotation. The seemingly never-ending question for next season is what will the front court look like. It’s almost guaranteed at this point that Kipper will receive heavy minutes at the 4. Kipper is not a great rebounder and unless he’s playing next to someone who is the Illini will get killed on the glass all year. It was bad last year and will probably be significantly worse next season.

The only two big men they currently have coming in are Samba Kane and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Samba seems pretty raw and I’m guessing he’ll struggle at rebounding throughout the year. Giorgi looks extremely raw and I would be surprised if he’s ready to contribute defensively or rebounding wise at all next year. Underwood still has 3 scholarships open for next year and it’s anyone’s guess what he ends up doing with them. There’s 3 names I’ve heard tossed around recently. Two of them are grad transfers: Adonis DeLaRosa 7’0 from Kent St and Dani Kolijanin 6’8 from Marshall. The 7’ footer, DeLaRosa, was good last year at Kent St (11.8 ppg & 7.6 rpg), but he will be recovering from an ACL injury and would probably miss half of the year. I think he’s worth rolling the dice on with one of the scholarships. The other guy, Kolijanin, only averaged 2.3 ppg & 1.7 rpg last season. That’s not great, but hopefully someone experienced would be able to help on the boards a little bit next year. I think his name is interchangeable with any other grad transfer big the illini could end up with.

The third guy is class of ’18 6’8, Anthony Higgs. I’m actually pretty intrigued with this possibility. He’s athletic and appears to be someone who could turn into an effective rebounder fairly quickly. I think it would be great if they got him, but I would be pretty shocked. If not him I doubt Underwood is able to find anything other than class of ’18 low-mid major project big men who won’t be able to contribute at all next year. So they will have to settle on some grad transfer bigs who seem like they will probably be pretty bad. This is starting to remind me of the point guard situation that left us with a backcourt of Jaylon Tate and grad transfer Khalid Lewis in ’15-‘16. They were both overmatched the entire year and made the team unwatchable. I’m worried about the long term implications of this. Why can’t Underwood and his staff get any decent big man to come to Illinois when they would be in line to play huge minutes next to a strong backcourt? It’s alarming that Eboigbodin would transfer when the starting center job would be his to lose as a sophomore. It doesn’t matter how good the backcourt will be if the frontcourt is as bad as it seems like it will be. I still have confidence in Underwood, but unless they grab some good big men for next year the ceiling for this team is a middling Big Ten team that misses the tournament.

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