Last offseason, Brad Underwood used the transfer portal to fill both important starting positions and depth with the additions of Alfonso Plummer and Omar Payne. This year, according to 247 Sports, Illinois has the second-best transfer in the class in the country with the additions of Matthew Mayer, Terrence Shannon and Dain Dainja (and Brad may not be done).
This incoming transfer class has the possibility of adding a top scorer and multiple starters, so let’s preview this loaded transfer class.
When Matthew Mayer transferred from Baylor and committed to Illinois over North Carolina, Texas Tech and Memphis, it surprised many in the college basketball world. He originally declared for the NBA draft but withdrew and committed to Illinois.
Mayer is a 6-foot-9 forward who can play multiple positions on the floor. He was a member of the 2020-21 Baylor national title team, where he averaged 8.1 points and played a crucial role off the bench. This past season Mayer averaged 9.8 points and 5 rebounds and shot 32.4% from 3. This was a decrease from 39.5% which he shot during Baylor’s championship season.
Another strength is that Mayer is a great all-around player, especially at behind the arc both on-ball and off-ball. Underwood will run plays to free him to get open shots throughout the season. He is sometimes a streaky shooter and can be especially productive if consistent.
Mayer prides himself on his defense where he plays with grit. He has averaged 1.2 steals over the past two seasons and can defend multiple positions. At Baylor, he didn’t have enough playing time to play to his full capacity, but being the primary option at times for Illinois, will allow him to play to his full potential.
Mayer will need to shoot consistently from three and midrange, especially while the freshman are adjusting to the college game. He ceiling may be a NBA role player.
Terrence Shannon is a 6-foot-6 small forward who transferred from Texas Tech. He choose Illinois over Michigan, Florida State and Georgetown. In his sophomore season, he was named to the All-Big 12 Third-Team when he averaged 12.9 points. Shannon is an athletic player who is especially explosive when attacking the net. He has a good first step and is known for his powerful dunks.
Compared to his sophomore season, Shannon had a down junior season where he averaged 10.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a productive three-point shooter and averaged 38%.
Shannon defends at a high level, which helped Texas Tech to become one of the best defenses in the country. He uses his length to keep defenders in front of him. This will allow Brad Underwood lots of flexibility on the defensive end when deciding matchups.
Shannon needs to improve his mid-range shooting ability as he has struggled to shoot consistently and create his shoot. He has also had problems with injuries in the past so staying healthy will be crucial for Shannon to have success with the Illini this upcoming season. I expect Shannon to play an important starting role for the Illini throughout the season.
Dain Dainja is a 6-foot-9 center and has a 7-foot-6 wingspan. Coming out of high school, Dainja was a former top-100 prospect and committed to Baylor. He red-shirted his first year of college and then transferred to Illinois.
This past season he sat out and worked the entire year with the Illinois strength and conditioning coach. Dainja has only played 9 minutes of college basketball but he is expected to be an athletic and versatile player. Underwood also described him as comfortable with both handling and passing the basketball and has a good work ethic.
It is hard to know what to expect from Dainja because he has played so little time in college. Dainja will hopefully have a solid offensive game but defensively it is unclear. He will be the starting center for the beginning of the season and split his playing time with Coleman Hawkins.
Dainja is an important chance for Underwood to show how his program can develop players. With Dainja producing at a starting or better level, it will allow the Illini to find more success as a team this upcoming season.
What to Expect
For the upcoming season, these transfers are crucial for the success of the Illini. Especially toward the beginning of the season, the freshmen will rely on the experience and skill of the transfers.
Both Matthew Mayer and Terrence Shannon will play starting roles and Mayer will carry the load of scoring throughout the season. Dain Dainja will see time starting but could split starting minutes with Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez.
All the incoming transfers have athleticism and length, which will give Underwood flexibility in the positions he will play them. The incoming transfers have high expectations which will hopefully translate to the upcoming season.