Illinois landed another wing today.
Its official!!!! 100% committed to University of Illinois pic.twitter.com/YtYlSORjLU— Austin Hutcherson (@ahutch_22) August 3, 2019
Former Utah forward Donnie Tillman briefly considered transferring to the Fighting Illini this offseason before ultimately committing to UNLV. But now, another transfer has caught the eye of Brad Underwood and the Illinois coaching staff, though, chances are you’d never heard of him until a few days ago.
Austin Hutcherson, a 6-foot-6 wing from D-III Wesleyan University, was on campus for an official visit the weekend of Aug. 3, per 247sports:
JUST IN: #Illini hosting D-III standout Austin Hutcherson (@ahutch_22) for an OV starting on Thursday. 6'6" with skill, athleticism & a nice stroke.— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) July 29, 2019
"They were the first school that contacted me and showed interest when my highlight tape got sent out."https://t.co/UpHFkFmCI0
Hutcherson led the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) in scoring last season with 20 points per game. He shot 44.4 percent from the field — including 39.2 percent from long range — and an impressive 88.5 percent at the free throw line. In two seasons at Wesleyan, he scored 847 points in 54 games, and was a 41 percent three-point shooter for the Cardinals.
The athletic combo guard visited Creighton and Notre Dame in late July, and nixed a previously scheduled visit to Marquette. Champaign-Urbana is Hutcherson’s final stop before making his choice. He must sit out the upcoming season and will have two years of eligibility starting in 2020.
“I’ve been talking to Coach Antigua and Coach Underwood for like two or three weeks now, and we’ve built a relationship,” Hutcherson told Illini Inquirer. “And they had me come the first week they could get me, which was this weekend. So I’m excited to go.”
I know, I know. D-III is vastly different from D-1, but lots of players get under-recruited and fall through the cracks. This kind of upward move is certainly rare, though not unprecedented, even within the Big Ten. Duncan Robinson started his college basketball career at Williams College — a NESCAC rival of Wesleyan — before transferring to Michigan after his freshman year. He became an integral part of the Wolverines’ success, finishing with 237 threes and becoming the only player ever to compete in the D-III and D-I National Championship game. Robinson was most recently part of the Miami Heat’s summer league roster (along with former Illini Kendrick Nunn).
The Illini will certainly be in need of scoring and ballhandling come 2020 with the expected departure of Ayo Dosunmu and the graduation of Andres Feliz. In addition to his scoring prowess, Hutcherson can also distribute a bit, averaging more than three assists per game last season.
Guards Alan Griffin and Tevian Jones have shown promise and potential, but haven’t yet shown they can be relied upon for 25-30 minutes a game. Hutcherson averaged 35 minutes per contest last year for Wesleyan. Kipper Nichols will have moved on and obviously doesn’t fit Brad Underwood’s system, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk is a complete wild card at this point.
Hutcherson checks a lot of boxes for the Illini — he’s a long, athletic guard that can spread the floor, play multiple positions, and make shots from the perimeter. His free throw shooting also makes him a valuable late-game asset. At only 175 pounds, he could use the redshirt year to build his body for the rigors of the B1G. I could see him beginning as a rotational player before eventually becoming a starter.
Coach Underwood and his staff have shown that they’re willing to look anywhere for talent. Could Hutcherson be Illinois’ next diamond in the rough?