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Da’Monte Williams returning to Illinois for fifth season

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One last ride for the super seniors.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Da’Monte Williams will join teammate Trent Frazier in returning to Illinois for a fifth season, made possible due to the NCAA’s COVID eligibility rule.

Williams announced his decision Wednesday afternoon on social media.

DMW appeared in all 31 games for the Illini this season, averaging 5.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 24.9 minutes per contest. His biggest improvement came from behind the arc where he shot 54.7% on 2.1 average attempts per game, up from just 28.3% and 1.5 average attempts in his junior season. That shooting improvement came up in the biggest moments for the Illini this season, where he hit a go-ahead three against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game to help seal the win.

While not the flashiest player, All-American teammate Kofi Cockburn summarized Williams’ value on the court like this: “Monte is a gritty player, man. He’s a gritty player. He gets after it every night. He comes out and gives us the energy that we need, whether he’s starting or not. He’s mentality focused. He’s focused on winning, he’s focused on the team and he puts the team before himself. When a player does that, good things happen to them.”

On a team with two clear offensive leaders and many other contributing weapons, Williams found ways to be efficient and effective on the offensive end while providing the strong leadership and personality that Underwood wants his teams to embody defensively. He’s been an invaluable part of these resurgent Illini teams the past two seasons.

Williams will not count toward Illinois’ scholarship limit for the upcoming season, meaning the Illini still have one open spot, with potentially a second if Cockburn chooses not to return to withdraw from the NBA Draft.