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Illinois Basketball 2018-19 Player Review: Samba Kane

The great unknown, can Samba become a key player for Illini?

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By the Numbers

They are scant. In 18 games, Kane averaged less than five minutes per contest. He scored 27 points on 59.1% shooting, which roughly averages out to 1.5 points per game. He did have 10 blocks in his limited playing time, showing off some defensive prowess. He also shot 1-for-7 from the free throw line, a whopping 14.3%. Needless to say, however, his impact was minimal.

Could that be just a freshman big acclimating to the game? Will he ever be a major contributor for Illinois? Time will tell, but at 7-foot-1, his upside as a project big is tantalizing.

Impact on the Illini

Nada, really. There is no way around it, Samba Kane either didn't make enough strides in practice, or the coaching staff didn't trust him enough in game situations. Or both. There's a reason why Kane got no tick, even with ADLR struggling offensively, and forcing Aaron Jordan and Kipper Nichols to play bigger than they are.

If he wasn't ready, that's understandable. It just seemed as if there were opportunities to get Kane more playing time down the stretch in what was a lost season. As a fan base, Illini fans can only be patient and hope all that time watching film — and in the weight room —pays off.

Samba Kane's Best Game

UNLV. In 16 minutes, Kane scored 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting with two blocks defensively. Against an inferior opponent (few and far between), the Illini effectively used their young 7-footer to rotate in and provide good minutes in the 77-74 victory.

The Quick and Dirty

Without a transfer, personally, I feel Samba Kane could be a big piece for the Illini, literally and figuratively. His defensive upside alone reminds me of Nnanna Egwu. Granted, Kane is a long ways from being that prolific of a defender.

However, it's his offense that will either carry him to prominence, or sink him to the end of the bench. If he makes strides off the court, the ceiling is high.

But he should stay.

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