The junior class welcomed a few newcomers this offseason in Austin Hutcherson and Jacob Grandison, two guys I’m going to skip over since they won’t make their appearance until next season.
Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Wiliams are all that remains from Brad Underwood’s original freshmen class. Their college careers have taken completely different paths thus far.
2018-19 Stats: 13.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.3 RPG, 40.6% 3-PT
(Those orange throwbacks are so, so good.)
A former All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection himself, Trent Frazier took a step forward last year. As arguably the only returning bright spot from Brad Underwood’s first season, Frazier wound up at the top of many opposing team’s scouting reports.
In just his second game of the year, he had one of the most impressive performances by any Illini last season. He led an undermatched Illinois squad down to the wire against a top-5 Gonzaga team in the first game of the Maui Invitational. Frazier would finish with 29 points on 6-of-13 shooting from three, a perfect 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, and five steals to go along with a pair of assists.
We know the kid can shoot. We’ve seen that over the past two years. Now — with a potential lottery pick in the backcourt alongside him — I want to see consistency from Frazier. He’s not going to draw the opposing team’s best defender which will play in his favor. Ayo is a threat to score attacking the basket, pulling up in the lane, behind the arc, and everywhere in between. Teams will have to honor that, which should lead to more open looks for Frazier behind the arc to do what he does best. Cut down on the turnovers, and he’ll be fine.
He’s also a hell of an on-ball defender, seemingly a trend of Underwood’s guards. On seven occasions last season, Frazier tallied at least three steals. Between Andres Feliz, Dosunmu and Trent, these guys are going to pester the piss out of ball handlers all year long.
2018-19 Stats: 3.5 RPG, 3.4 PPG, 1.2 APG
I’m really not sure where to start with Da’Monte. A former four-star recruit and top-100 prospect according to some recruiting services, Williams was averaging over 25 points per game in high school before he tore his ACL.
I tried not to look too much into his freshman season, assuming he never really recovered from his high school injury. Just reevaluate the kid after year two and an entire offseason to get healthy.
But then he followed up his frosh campaign with an almost identical sophomore performance.
He’s long and a plus rebounder, but he hasn’t shown any sign of being a scoring threat in any offensive aspect whatsoever. His career-high through 64 games and over 1,200 minutes is just 11 points. He’s not a stellar enough defender to crack the lineup on his defense alone. This is the year he takes a backseat to guys like Alan Griffin, Tevian Jones, and even Andres Feliz.