Picture the ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago. Except instead of moving slowly, and people calmly getting on and off the ferris wheel, picture that you have to get a running jump to get on.
That’s what this offseason of college basketball has been like. Put the NFL, NBA, MLB, and college football offseasons together, subtract compensating the athletes fairly for their work, and that’s what you have. Whether you like it or not, that’s what the pandemic among other trends has done to the college basketball offseason.
Add a No. 2 AP ranking, and this offseason for Illinois basketball has been as eventful as any team in the country. With all of the turnover that the Illini roster has experienced, it’s difficult to even theorize about who will be on the team next year, let alone look at the starting lineup.
Let’s organize some of the chaos that’s happened since the loss to Loyola in the second round.
What We Know For Sure
Ayo Dosunmu declared for the NBA Draft and will not return to Illinois. Giorgi Bezhanishvilli will not return to Illinois. Kofi Cockburn declared for the NBA Draft but hired an NCAA-approved agent. Adam Miller is in the transfer portal. Jermaine Hamlin is in the transfer portal. Trent Frazier has announced that he will return. Brandin Podziemski committed to the Illini. Omar Payne (Florida) and Alfonso Plummer (Utah) have transferred to Illinois.
Illinois will play in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Nov. 22 and 23 against two of the following three teams: Kansas State, Arkansas, and Cincinnati. The Illini will also play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, most likely against one of the teams that finished in near the top of the conference.
So What Are We Unsure About?
Kofi Cockburn and Adam Miller could both technically come back. Either would be a surprise, and Miller would be a big surprise. Trent Frazier, or any player for that matter, could decide that he no longer wants to play. Illinois should have one more scholarship available, but if Kofi comes back, that’s gone.
Illinois will most likely return to playing in the Gavitt Games against a Big East team. It will most likely be one that finished near the top of that conference.
What We Have Absolutely No Idea About
The 3-and-D specialist has not given any indication whether he will return to Illinois.
In addition to Da’Monte, assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Ron Coleman have been rumored to be in discussions with Kentucky for jobs there. Reports have indicated that Illinois gave Antigua an offer of at least $1 million per year to stay in Champaign. This would likely make him the highest paid assistant coach in college basketball.
Brad Underwood and Illinois still have a lot to do this offseason. The “dead period” where coaches can’t recruit ends on June 1. The NBA Draft Combine will go from June 21 to 27, and typically about 10 days later is when NCAA players who have declared for the draft must announce their decisions to go forward.
So by the first or second week of July, we should know whether Kofi intends to come back to Illinois (if not sooner). This obviously has many implications because Kofi is a generational collegiate talent, but it also will mean whether the Illini can add another player. If Kofi doesn’t come back, Omar Payne will be the only player who can reliably play the 5.
Just be thankful that — knock on wood — all signs point to Andre Curbelo taking over Ayo Dosunmu’s role as the lead guard of the the Fighting Illini. All he needs to do now is develop a three point shot.