Recruiting, specifically basketball recruiting, fascinates me. It’s a seemingly non-stop pursuit of players near and far to help augment your team’s roster. And few programs recently have embraced the “far” part of that philosophy more than Illinois.
Brad Underwood and his staff — namely Orlando Antigua — have combed their resources across the globe to give the Fighting Illini a distinct international flair, albeit with mixed results. Giorgi Bezhanishvili (Georgia) & Kofi Cockburn (Jamaica) wowed us as freshmen. Andres Feliz (Dominican Republic) was one of the most sought-after JUCO recruits in the country and became one of Illinois’ most valuable players. Greg Eboigbodin (Nigeria) & Samba Kane (Senegal) flashed potential before ultimately leaving the program. And Matic Vesel was on the team!
Which brings me to Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk. The Illini offered the 6-foot-8 Belgian forward last summer after seeing him...on YouTube. Looking at the film, it’s easy to see why the coaching staff was intrigued. He’s long, athletic, can stretch the floor — he fits the mold of today’s modern basketball player. There’s a lot to like. There’s also a lot to be determined.
By The Numbers
Well, there weren’t many. Most expected BBV to be on the end of the Illini bench last season. Unfortunately, Illini fans saw even less of him than anticipated. Bosmans-Verdonk played in a mere 9 games before a foot injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. In sum, he totaled 11 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks while averaging 6.4 minutes per appearance. The Belgian Boss showed that he does have value, even if it was in small bursts. Speaking of which...
Impact on the Illini
It’s tricky to evaluate his potential impact. He is never going to be the guy, but BBV certainly has enough bounce in his game to be a “secret weapon” of sorts for Brad Underwood. Bosmans-Verdonk showed in the international circuit that he’s a capable long range shooter and has shown during his brief time in Champaign that he’s very active around the rim. Both of those traits could help him carve out a role in the Illini frontcourt.
The departures of Alan Griffin & Tevian Jones — and potentially Cockburn — may open up some valuable minutes. However, with transfer wings Austin Hutcherson & Jacob Grandison eligible to play next season, a stacked incoming freshmen class, and the probable addition of a grad transfer, The Big Bosmans will have to work even harder to separate himself. And he might find himself stuck in his current role if Ayo & Kofi ultimately decide to return.
Here’s who could perhaps be blocking Bosmans-Verdonk on Illinois’ bench: Giorgi, Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, Coleman Hawkins, Hutcherson, Grandison, Transfer to Be Named Later. The only player Bosmans-Verdonk should be clearly ahead of on the depth chart is Jermaine Hamlin. That’s a good problem to have.
BBV’s Best Game*
In one of his few chances to see extended playing time, Bosmans-Verdonk logged 13 minutes and recorded 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in Illinois’ 85-57 victory over The Citadel on Nov. 20. Hey, stats are stats.
*Bosmans-Verdonk had 11 points and was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the Illini’s exhibition win versus Lewis.
The Quick and Dirty
The jury’s still out on BBV. Illinois doesn’t yet know what it has. Ultimately, I don’t think his position will change much — at least not for the 2020-21 season — if the current roster remains intact. He’ll come off the bench during mop-up time and electrify the State Farm Center crowd with a chasedown block or scintillating slam. Kofi turns pro and the landscape changes vastly. If Bosmans-Verdonk is healthy I’d love to see the coaching staff turn him loose and see if he can optimize his potential.