Over the last few week’s we’ve done deep dives on the roster we’ll have for this upcoming season. Let’s take a look at who we’ll have on the bench leading our Illini.
Chester Frazier starts his second year as an assistant for the Illini this season. A former Illini basketball player himself, Frazier joined the staff after being a highly regarded assistant at Virginia Tech and Kansas State.
He’s brought energy and passion to the bench and been a great asset for recruiting as well. Frazier has brought in top-100 recruits Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris.
Tim Anderson might have been relatively unknown to the Illini fan base before joining the staff last season but he has quickly made his name known with his prowess on the recruiting trail.
Prior to joining the Illini, Anderson was an assistant for DePaul and heavily involved in the Chicago AAU scene as well as helping players train prior to the NBA draft. He utilized all of his prior connections to pull in a bunch of talent to the Illini.
Anderson has brought in Ty Rodgers and ‘24 recruit Morez Johnson along with prized transfers Dainja and Terrance Shannon Jr. The biggest get for Anderson was getting Skyy Clark to flip his commitment from Kentucky to the Illini, the highest rated recruit for the Illini in 20 years.
Fletcher joined the staff along with Underwood six years ago and has become one of the best known strength and conditioning coaches in the country. His impact can be seen by the vast transformations many of the players have undergone his tutelage.
Ayo Dosunmu credited Fletcher with helping him develop his body to be NBA ready. Kofi Cockburn struggled to stay on the floor for stretches early on as a freshman, but after working with Fletch he managed to get in great shape and played 30+ minutes last season.
This is what @kxng_alpha has been about. Came in at 320lbs and over 3 years completely transformed his image. Played 30+ minutes a night, I will never take his work ethic for granted. Some team will draft one of the best humans I have ever been around. https://t.co/sHRqLk9TIQ pic.twitter.com/UamED2I0dz— Adam Fletcher (@Adam_Fletcher41) May 18, 2022
Fletcher has also been behind the positive progress in Skyy Clark’s ACL rehab.
Coach Underwood enters his sixth season at the helm of the Fighting Illini program, and it’s safe to say he’s brought us back to being a powerhouse both in the Big Ten and nationally.
He has led the team to 3 straight 20+ win seasons along with a Big Ten Tournament (2021) and Big Ten regular season championship (2022).
As mentioned above, his staff has also managed to consistently pull in highly rated recruits and he’s also been able to pull in the funding to make Illinois’ facilities some of the best in the country. In addition, he rebuilt the staff quickly after 3 assistants left last offseason and the on-court product hasn’t suffered at all.
There’s a couple of things to watch out for from Coach Underwood this season. Each of those 20-win seasons were with Kofi Cockburn dominant in the paint, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts the scheme on both ends to handle his absence without a like for like replacement. Underwood also needs to take the next step with this program and make it to the second weekend of the tourney.
We have the roster flexibility this year to be able to match up well with any team, and it’s going to be on Underwood to lead those pieces to the Sweet 16 at minimum.
Overall, the work our coaching staff has done off the court in the last couple of months has set up the program for success for years to come. Let’s just hope all of that work translates into a deep postseason run this March.