It was a pretty dismal week for the Illinois Basketball staff and Illini fans. Top 2019 targets Kahlil Whitney and Terrence Shannon Jr. both announced commitments to other programs, leaving Illinois still looking for its first commit in the upcoming class.
Both of these misses sting, but Whitney’s decision to play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats might hurt just a hair more. Whitney has been a priority for Underwood & Co. since they arrived in Champaign. The Illini felt like major players in his recruitment, but the last month and a half saw a tremendous rise in Whitney’s stock, welcoming some new players to the game.
So where does the staff go from here?
There’s been some buzz around guys like Drew Timme, who I talked about here, and Kofi Cockburn, another guy discussed here. The Illini’s need for frontcourt depth is real. Adonis De La Rosa will be gone after this season leaving just Samba Kane, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Anthony Higgs as the only guys standing above 6-foot-7. Not to mention, we haven’t seen any of those three even play a minute as an Illini yet.
Timme recently cut his list of schools to 10 and is a top-50 prospect in his class. Underwood was one of the first to offer Timme last summer and that relationship could play a crucial role come time for his decision.
Cockburn, a top-30 prospect in the 2019 class, is another huge target (literally). Coming in at 6-foot-11, 255 pounds, Cockburn would give the Illinois roster some size and athleticism that has been missing from the team the past several seasons. He just announced his decision to switch schools, electing to play for the storied Oak Hill Academy program, a team that holds the No. 1 recruit in the nation: Cole Anthony.
E.J. Liddell has been another frontcourt target for Illinois’ 2019 class. He just announced his top five schools this afternoon via his Twitter.
Liddell had a nice summer and is the state’s returning Mr. Basketball. A commitment from any of these three guys would be a nice start to the 2019 class.
As far as the backcourt is concerned, Shannon Jr. and Whitney were the top two targets on the list. The Illini will have three open scholarships after this season barring any transfers. Expect the staff to bring in at least two bigs and another wing, adjusting their needs if players should decide to transfer.
Now is when attention will start to shift towards guys like Lester Quinones, Malik Hall, or Jalen Hill. The staff also just recently offered Christian Braun, a 6-foot-4 combo guard and younger brother of Missouri walk-on, Parker Braun.