Jacob Grandison really started to find his niche on this Illini team down the stretch of last season, making key hustle plays that sparked runs to help wins games. He was rewarded by the coaching staff, seeing more than 20 minutes in 9 of the final 11 contests last season.
The Holy Cross transfer didn’t have many offensive opportunities last season with the presence of All-Americans Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, but he made the most of his opportunities and secured a starting role with his maturity, energy, fit in his role, and knack for heady, winning plays.
He also had a rather unique offseason, getting to be a part of the Finnish national team along with his younger brother Lucas, who played on the U20 team. For Grandison, partaking in this opportunity was about more than basketball, rather “it’s just an opportunity for me to show who I really am... It’s nice to finally be seen as a more full, complete picture, as my story has kind of been underground.”
Don’t expect this to be any kind of vacation for him however, as “he’s been waking up every day at 4 a.m. to get three workouts in before noon, and he plans to continue that unrelenting work ethic overseas and when he reunites with the Illini.”
Hopefully, this self-exploration with the Finnish national team and continued dedication to his craft will position Grandison for a significant leap in production coming into his senior year.
What to Expect
I expect Grandison to continue helping the Illini in their winning ways with his hustle, smart playmaking, and ability to thrive in his role offensively and defensively. His opportunities offensively should grow this season given the presence of many young newcomers and the loss of Dosunmu.
He may face some significant competition as the season wears on however, as Underwood has played the second forward spot more by committee in his time with the Illini with Coleman Hawkins, Omar Payne, and even Da’Monte Williams all likely seeing time at that spot as well this season. If Grandison can continue to hit at the rate that he did last year (41.5% on threes, 95.7% on free throws, and 52.6% from the field) but in a more prominent role, it will be hard for Underwood to take him off the floor.
His 6-foot-6 frame also gives Underwood more flexibility to use him in different positions and sets on both ends of the floor.
Unlike last season, Grandison comes in as the incumbent at the position this season, which should favor him, especially early on. He also has the familiarity with returning teammates Cockburn, Frazier and Williams and two years under his belt in Underwood’s system. With his high character, basketball savvy, and versatile skillset, Grandison should be in for a breakout season with the orange and blue to help keep them in the running for a Big Ten title.