At the 2021-22 Illinois Basketball media day, head coach Brad Underwood made it very clear that this year’s team will be different than last year’s No. 1 seeded team that was upset in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
“I am trying to play a little bit faster [this year],” said the newly extended coach. “This team is gonna be a better shooting team.”
Enter Alfonso Plummer, the transfer from Utah who shot over 38% or higher from distance in his two seasons in the NCAA.
“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve coached,” Underwood said. “Period.”
While it’s unknown how the minutes will be spread around this season, Plummer looks primed to carry a big role on a team expected to shoot more threes than it did a year ago.
The Puerto Rican guard isn’t taking those compliments lightly.
“That’s a lot,” Plummer said. “It means a lot, man, because I know that he’s got a lot of confidence [in] me. He told me like ‘every shot that you see, that you think you’re open, shoot it.’”
“You know he gave me the green light, he trusts me, and he said I’m gonna be a good piece for the team, and so that’s a great great situation for me, and I’m very very grateful for that.”
With dozens of offers when he announced his intent to transfer from the Utes this offseason, he said he was drawn to the Illini for his final season because it’s a ‘winning program.’
So what exactly was it that drew the senior guard to Illinois for his final season in the NCAA?
“I said that this program is recently one of the best programs in the nation, one of the best programs in the Big Ten, so I’m really excited,” Plummer said. “You know I’m just trying to find a place that can take me to a pro level and I know this team will help me for sure.”
Plummer will wear No. 11, and debut in Orange and Blue this Saturday in the team’s exhibition contest against St. Francis.
That number carries a lot of weight in Orange and Blue lore, with Dee Brown’s No. 11 hanging in the rafter, and Ayo Dosunmu’s No. 11 joining him in the near future.
But Plummer isn’t concerned about living up to some sort of legacy.
“I’m playing my own game, obviously trying to help the team. I’m all about winning,” Plummer said. “I don’t care about the number on my chest or my name on the back, I just care about the name on the front and just trying to find ways to win. If I can be like one of the best players in the Big Ten that’s great, if not, it’s not, but I just want to win.”