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Illinois Basketball Player Preview: Brandon Lieb

You can’t teach size.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Drexel at Illinois Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

2021-22 marks Brandon Lieb’s second year with the Illini. After a successful regular season and disappointing post-season exit by the Illini, Lieb enters his sophomore campaign on an Illini team with a lot of ‘unfinished business.’ The Deerfield native stands at 7-foot, 220 pounds, an impressive 20-pound weight gain this offseason.

In his senior year at Deerfield, Lieb averaged 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Lieb was a two-star prospect when he committed to the Illini and the No. 11 ranked center prospect in the state of Illinois’ Class of 2020. He held high major offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and DePaul before deciding to play for the Illini.

His class had a unique introduction to campus last year. Upon arrival, Lieb and his fellow commits came to campus with strict COVID-19 restrictions. Regardless of the circumstances, Lieb has made strides in the weight room under Adam Fletcher’s direction. As a freshman Lieb only appeared in five games for a total of just 12 minutes on the year for the Illini.

It’s no secret Lieb is a player that is still developing. If there is one skill you can’t teach though, it’s size. If Lieb continues to trust in the process under Underwood, his development as a player should follow. With the addition of Omar Payne, Kofi Cockburn’s return and Ben Verdonk another year older, Lieb has a lot of talent ahead of him for minutes. This can come as an advantage to Lieb in the long run. Kofi’s 60-pound weight advantage and unique skill set give Lieb a challenge every day in practice. On the other hand, Payne’s explosive play style presents a totally different challenge to Lieb that can pay huge dividends in his development over the course of the season. If the sophomore can find a way to compete with those two guys in practice, he could very well hold his own against other Big Ten opponents.

Lieb will likely maintain a similar role as he did last year. However, Lieb’s length and height along with the opportunity to develop under guys like Kofi and Omar Payne should intrigue fans about what’s to come. With a productive sophomore year behind the scenes, Lieb could carve out a bigger workload in the coming years.