Ryan Kalkbrenner is a seven-foot, 225-pound center from Saint Louis, Missouri. Kalkbrenner attends Trinity Catholic High School, a name that probably rings a bell for a lot of Illini fans. Its football program has churned out elite talent, including guys like Isaiah Williams and Shammond Cooper.
The big man has offers from Missouri, Kansas State, Cincinnati and Pitt, among others. He’s rated as a four-star prospect and a top-100 prospect in the class of 2020.
Kalkbrenner is still incredibly raw, but possesses loads of potential. At seven feet tall and only 225 pounds, he still has a lot of filling out to do. At the high school level, he is mostly dominating the competition with his length and wingspan. When he gets to college, he’ll need to add a significant amount of strength and muscle to his frame in order to be an effective rebounder and low-post presence against Big Ten competition.
Kalkbrenner has plus athleticsm, foot speed and defensive instincts. He has shown the ability to switch onto smaller players and stay in front of them. While he still has the clear height advantage at the high school level, he displays great timing and awareness with his rim protection skills in the half court and in transition. For a big — and somewhat awkward — body type he runs the floor really well and gets himself in great position to prevent the opponent from finishing around the rim.
His greatest offensive strength is his ability to run the floor and fill the lane. His feel and instincts are impressive for a player of his size. Kalkbrenner has shown good touch from 15 feet and in on the offensive end, but in order for him to make a significant impact on offense, he will have to put on a significant amount of strength and develop a more consistent face up game.
Kalkbrenner would be a true center and rim protector in Underwood’s system. He would play the role of the “one in” in a four-out-one-in scheme. Unlike Giorgi, the Illini would not try and run the offense through Kalkbrenner, at least early on. His role would be strictly to run the floor at an elite level for a seven-footer, block shots, corral rebounds, dunk the basketball and take advantage of mismatches in the post.
Kalkbrenner, Bezshanishvili and Cockburn would all bring distinctly different skillets to the front-court. Length, post-scoring, strength and skill would all be represented between the trio. In theory, Underwood could “go big” by playing any two of the three, or play any one at center with four perimeter players around them depending on the desired style.
This seven-footer is still an unknown, but the potential is about as high as any front-court player in the high school ranks. And that is what has the Illini staff so intrigued.