Welcome to our Illinois Basketball season preview!
This college basketball offseason was unlike any we had ever seen before. With the proliferation of player movement thanks to the transfer portal along with student-athletes receiving a bonus year of eligibility due to COVID-19, there was unprecedented roster turnover across college hoops.
The Illinois Fighting Illini were certainly not immune from a slew of player departures — some expected, some surprising. Brad Underwood also watched all three of his top assistant coaches exit the program.
With less than a month until the 2021-22 season tips off (the Illini’s first exhibition game is only NINE DAYS away), let’s rehash those that left, those that came back, and those new faces who will be calling Champaign home. This looks less like a list and more like a CVS receipt...
- Jermaine Hamlin (New school: Eastern Illinois)
- Adam Miller (LSU)
- Edgar Padilla (Pensacola State College)
- Tyler Underwood (now serving as Director of Recruiting & Scouting)
- Giorgi Bezhanishvili (Undrafted, currently on Exhibit 10 contract w/ Denver Nuggets)
- Ayo Dosunmu (NBA Draft, 38th overall, Chicago Bulls)
- Orlando Antigua (Kentucky)
- Ron “Chin” Coleman (Kentucky)
- Stephen Gentry (Gonzaga)
- F/C Omar Payne (Previous school: Florida)
- PG Alfonso Plummer (Utah)
- SF Luke Goode
- SF Ramses “RJ” Melendez
- SG Brandin Podziemski
- PF Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk
- C Kofi Cockburn
- PG Andre Curbelo
- PG Trent Frazier
- G/F Jacob Grandison
- F Coleman Hawkins
- G/F Austin Hutcherson
- C Brandon Lieb
- F Connor Serven
- G/F Da’Monte Williams
- Tim Anderson (Previous role: Assistant coach, Depaul)
- Geoff Alexander (Assistant to the Head Coach, Illinois)
- Chester Frazier (Assistant coach, Virginia Tech)
So there we have it: 15 total players, including 10 returners, 3 incoming freshmen and 2 transfers. Brad Underwood enters 2021-22 with a roster comprising a First Team All-Big Ten selection & Second Team All-American (Cockburn), the regining Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year (Curbelo), two super-seniors (Frazier & Williams), and the nation’s leading three-point shooter (Williams).
Despite the hectic nature of the offseason, the Illini emerged a deeper, more experienced team. Preseason projections have pegged Illinois as a top-3 squad in the Big Ten. There are still a lot of unknowns with this team and plenty of roles yet to be sussed out, but this year’s Fighting Illini will be incredibly fun to watch.
Illinois’ regular season gets underway Nov. 9 vs. Jackson State.