The current status of Luke Goode (Good-EEE) is a puzzling one. On one hand, he seems to be the least hyped of the 2021 class. On the other, there is growing evidence from staff comments and practice performances that he could be the first freshman to contribute come November.
Goode’s backseat ticket on the Fighting Illini hype train is at least understandable. The 2021 class gave Illinois fans a wealth of potential to dream on. Illinois added four four-star recruits in 2021, including Florida transfer Omar Payne. Brad Underwood also brought in a fifth, unranked player. Fortunately, Alfonso Plummer happens to be a prolific three-point shooter with over 50 games of power 5 experience. Illinois’ 2021 class is not just talented, it is large. Almost 36% of current scholarship players were not Illini last year, and outside of unranked Plummer, no 2021 commit ranked lower than 107. In years past, Luke Goode may have headlined his recruiting class. This year, however, he is part of a class that combines talent and depth as well as any in recent Illinois history.
In October, talent is just potential. Sometimes that potential turns into talent, and sometimes that potential doesn’t align with on-court talent. Goode seemed to have flown under the radar much of the offseason compared to his 2021 peers because his potential appeared, well, less potent. However, the red-haired Hoosier may have the on-court talent to push himself to the front of the freshman pecking order.
What Illinois is Getting
A very long, solidly-build wing with a good shooting stroke and basketball IQ. All are reasons why he could be the first freshman to carve out a role. Goode improved his shooting tremendously his senior year, hitting a career-high threes and shooting a career best 40% from beyond the arc. Goode struggled a bit with his shot in prior seasons, and those struggles likely contributed to his 3-star 247Sports rating, lowest of the freshman. He put those struggles aside and starred for a Homestead basketball team that went 25-1, their only loss being to state champion, Carmel. Goode contributed in all facets, leading Homestead in assists per game, rebounds per game, and was second in points per game.
Goode’s solid, well-rounded play in a tough conference of a basketball-rich state only strengthens the idea he could be an early contributor. Goode doesn’t have explosive athleticism, especially compared to his freshman peers. In today’s game, that lowers public perception, fairly or unfairly. Goode overcomes a lack of explosiveness by possessing NBA length alongside consistent shooting, rebounding and passing. With Illinois lacking proven forward depth, Goode’s balanced, consistent game could help steady one of the few grey areas in Underwood’s rotation.
What to Expect
Five to ten minutes backing up the forward spots seems like a fair expectation for Goode right now. You don’t want expectations too high on freshman, who are often at a disadvantage physically and defensively, yet Goode has the size, balanced game and experience in a competitive environment to provide depth to an area that needs it the most. I don’t see Omar Payne playing the four, and the fact that conversation is still alive is evidence enough that playing time is available.
The Illini established a consistent lineup by seasons end consisting of Jacob Grandison and Adam Miller at forward with Da’Monte Williams and Giorgi Beshanishvili providing depth. Grandison will keep his spot and Williams will slide up into Miller’s, but who follows them is still a mystery. If Goode can prove himself to be a 3-point threat and use his length effectively, there is an immediate role for him as a depth option to both Grandison and Williams.
Grandison and Williams are gone next year, leaving the forward rotation even more murky than before. If Goode cracks the rotation and contributes to a team that should meet or exceed the success of 2020, he will set himself up nicely to fill Grandison’s shoes. Illinois is likely to enter a mini-rebuild post-2021, as the program could lose all five starters. Goode along with fellow freshmen Brandin Podziemski and Ramses Melendez are the core of the next great Illini team. While the other two may struggle to find playing time this year, Goode should be able to contribute depth minutes immediately while setting himself up as the forward of the future.