When Adonis De La Rosa committed to the Illini as a transfer from the Kent State Golden Flashes, myself and others were hopeful that Brad Underwood had found his go-to big man for the season. With Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Samba Kane coming in as freshmen, and Greg Eboigbodin transferring to Northeastern, the Illini were in serious need of anyone over 6-foot-8 to play the five.
However, it was clear early on that De La Rosa could not regain his pre-ACL injury form in 2019. Fortunately for the Illini, Bezhanishvili proved more than capable of playing starter minutes at the five, which allowed De La Rosa to come in off the bench. Adonis’ limited playing time is reflected in his stats from the 2018-19 season.
By the Numbers
De La Rosa started one game and saw playing time in 26 games, for an average of 8.7 minutes per game. He averaged 2.3 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, and 0.3 assists per game. De La Rosa also had trouble with turnovers, giving up 20 TOs over the course of the season, which was disappointing to see from a veteran player.
Among players with more than 200 minutes played (all players except Kane and the walkons), De La Rosa was last on the team in points per game and second last in FG% (.352). Only freshmen Tevian Jones and Alan Griffin had fewer rebounds per game than De La Rosa.
Impact on the Illini
Even with Giorgi’s emergence as an everyday big man, there were important minutes to be had at five. De La Rosa wasn’t much of a scoring or rebounding threat, but he ate up minutes and held the fort down while Giorgi caught his breath. He also had a few memorable moments along the way:
Adonis De La Rosa ▶️ Kipper pic.twitter.com/jJAj0UIWSY— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) February 6, 2019
He also caught the ire of Brad Underwood on camera, which was was immortalized in GIF form:
Adonis’ Best Game
De La Rosa had a season-high 12 points in Illinois’ first of three matchups with the Northwestern Wildcats. Adonis was the second highest scorer on the team behind Ayo Dosunmu, as the senior went 4-of-6 from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe, while he added 3 rebounds.
Although the Illini ultimately lost this heartbreaker in Evanston, Adonis kept the Illini in the game until the very end. Giorgi was ineffective during the game, finishing with 8 points, and Adonis stepped up to fill the gap by playing roughly twice as many minutes as his season average and vastly exceeding his 2.3 points per game. Few Illini fans expected De La Rosa to make in impact in January due to his ACL injury in the preceding spring, but Adonis defied the odds and gave his all in this game.
The Quick and Dirty
Adonis De La Rosa reminds me of former John Groce transfer big man Mike Thorne, who posted solid numbers at Charlotte and had the measurables to compete in the Big Ten, but was ultimately hampered by health issues throughout his time with the Illini. If De La Rosa were to return to Illinois next season, then I would confidently expect him to improve, as I believe many of his shortcomings during the 2018-19 season were the result of the ACL injury he sustained in the MAC Tournament last season.
But alas, De La Rosa now moves on from the Illini, and I sincerely thank him for giving his all for the Orange and Blue during a tough season.
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