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What does Illinois’ newest commit mean for the program?

The 6-foot-9 big man was a Chicago Catholic League Honorable Mention as a senior.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini got word Saturday night of a new addition to the men’s basketball program. Connor Serven, a 6-foot-9 forward from Chicago’s St. Rita High School, will be joining the team as a preferred walk-on.

Serven is a central Illinois native who played two seasons at Bushnell-Prairie City before transferring to St. Rita. Serven helped the Mustangs to a 21-11 record and was a Chicago Catholic League Honorable Mention selection. Illini assistant Chin Coleman offered him a walk-on spot during a campus visit last month. Serven bet on himself and accepted.

What exactly is a “preferred” walk-on?

A preferred walk-on is given a guaranteed roster spot, though no scholarship is granted. No tryout or workout is needed for a PWO to win a spot on the team. If scholarships open up down the line, they usually make for great candidates.

What’s the big deal, anyway?

We know the Illini will have a glut of guards heading into the 2020-21 season. But the frontcourt players — Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Kofi Cockburn, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Jermaine Hamlin, Coleman Hawkins — need guys to practice against, too. Walk-ons are very important to any program, but at 6-foot-9, Serven could have plenty of future value beyond quality practice depth. Only time will tell.

As the old adage goes, you can’t teach size. Serven is certainly bigger than recent Illini walk-ons like Zach Griffith, Samson Oladimeji, Cameron Liss, Alex Austin and Tyler Underwood.

Injuries impeded Serven’s development both at BPC and St. Rita. Now he’ll get the chance to develop under a much more sophisticated strength & conditioning program in Champaign. Check out some highlights below: