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Illinois Basketball Player Preview: Jacob Grandison

Grandison could be an X-factor off the bench.

NCAA Basketball: Siena at Holy Cross David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Jacob Grandison is a 6-foot-6 guard/forward from the Bay Area who played high school ball for Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. The only D-I school that recruited Grandison was Holy Cross of the Patriot League, where he played for two seasons, and transferred from, after the 2018-19 season.

What He Did Last Year

Grandison sat out last year as a transfer. In 2018-19, he started and averaged 13.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.1 SPG with only 1.9 turnovers per game. Over his two collegiate seasons, he’s compiled 4.3 win shares, including 2.6 win shares in 2019.

Without going into a bunch of statistical frontier gibberish, that means that he was solely responsible for 2.6 wins that season, which would have led the Illini in 2018-19.

What to Expect

Illinois needs someone to fill Alan Griffin’s shoes as a shooter, and that’s where Grandison comes in. He’s a lengthy wing that can run and stretch the floor, hitting 37% of his three-pointers in the Patriot League in 2018-19.

While he’s more than capable with the ball in his hands, what the Illini coaching staff really like about him are his off-ball skills on offense and defense. They particularly like his ability to cut to the basket with and without screens. His production in the pick and roll and low screen game, and his defense against it, will determine much of his playing time.

At 0:10 in the video below, Grandison takes advantage of two defenders on down screens to get buckets. At 0:49 and 1:03, he starts and finishes two textbook give and goes over Jordan Poole and current New York Knick Ignas Brazdeikis. I’m sure Grandison will win over the Illini faithful pretty quickly if he can dunk on Michigan for the next two years.

In two games against power conference teams (Michigan and Providence), Grandison has gotten 15 PPG, 6 RPG, and 3 APG with three total steals and one block, which came against Michigan.

In addition to how Grandison plays off of screens, another key for him will be to increase his effective FG%, or eFG%. This stat essentially shows how many points a player gets per shot, not including shots that end with taking free throws. An eFG% of .550 is considered to be very good, and .600 is elite. Alan Griffin led the Illini last year with an eFG% of .583 followed by Ayo at .502, so they’ll need Grandison’s shooting. Grandison’s eFG% in conference play was .527 as a freshman, but declined to .516 his sophomore year.

There are obstacles for Grandison in adjusting to the Big Ten, but his basketball IQ will likely make him a key asset. It’s uncertain right now how the Illini will make up for Alan Griffin’s shooting and overall play, whether it’s with Grandison, Austin Hutcherson, a combination of the two, or someone else entirely. Either way, replacing Griffin’s production will be critically important to the Illini making a deep run this year.

Unfortunately for Griffin, who played admirably well for Illinois, Syracuse hasn’t cracked the AP Poll since December of 2018. As for Grandison, the Illini are currently ranked No. 8 in the Preseason AP Poll.