This Illini squad is full of talent from top to bottom. How do they project at the next level, though?
Illinois hasn't had much success in producing NBA talent in recent years.
Meyers Leonard was the only active Illini in the league for a while, until Ayo Dosunmu was drafted 38th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2021.
Former Illini Brandin Podziemski was a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Whether or not you count him as a true Illini product and success story is up to you (we don’t).
Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili both had short stints in the G-League as well, before taking their talents overseas.
Brad Underwood has increased the talent level at Illinois like no other coach has. Every single recruiting class he brings in is filled with potential NBA players.
Let’s take a look at where these Illini players currently stack up in terms of their NBA future.
Terrence Shannon Jr
Terrence Shannon Jr is one of the biggest draft board risers in the first month of the college basketball season. Terrence scoring 33 points on national television against a ranked team at Madison Square Garden is a big part of that.
Averaging 21.7 points per game on 42.4% 3PT, Shannon is playing like a top-10 player in the country at the moment. Every single one of his shooting percentages has increased from last year.
TSJ was projected to be a second-round pick coming into the season. Most updated December mocks have him slotting comfortably into the first round.
A Bleacher Report mock draft from Dec. 7 has him being selected at No. 12. A first-round pick. A lottery pick. A green room invitee. Imagine how awesome that would be.
That Bleacher Report mock draft projects TSJ to be the second non-freshman or international player drafted. A common knock on Shannon is his age, which is to be expected. He’ll almost be 24 years old by draft night, which is extremely old by draft standards.
The talent is there, though. The results are there. He’s produced at a high level for five years at the collegiate level. He's consistently been on draft boards for a couple of years now. He probably could have comfortably been drafted in 2023, but opted to return to college to boost his draft stock.
It’s still early, but he's done that. He's done that better than anybody in the nation. It’s going to be so fun watching him in the league.
Like Terrence Shannon Jr., Coleman Hawkins had a legitimate chance to play on an NBA team instead of returning to college ball.
Coleman was mocked as a second-round pick frequently last season, and that was the consensus heading into the season too.
Unfortunately, he hasn't lived up to expectations this season. There’s no denying an injury has hurt him.
Coleman’s defensive game is still impressive, which is a huge part of why he's a potential NBA guy. His offense, on the other hand, has been a disaster.
Hawkins is averaging 6.8 points per game on just 32.6% FG and 20.8% 3PT. That’s not going to cut it for the NBA or college. It’s not fair to judge Coleman on his play while injured, so I don’t think there's any reason to write him off.
There aren’t many recent mock drafts that currently project Coleman Hawkins to be selected in the 2024 NBA Draft. That’s not a shock. It’s early and he has time to turn it around during Big Ten play.
The Rest Of The Team
As for the rest of the team, there’s not too much to keep tabs on for this season.
Marcus Domask, Quincy Guerrier, and Justin Harmon are all fifth-year guys who aren't producing consistently enough to get NBA looks.
Dain Dainja has struggled this year. Luke Goode doesn't really fit the mold of an NBA player yet.
Because of his recruiting ranking and versatility, I think Ty Rodgers could potentially be in line for some NBA looks, but in my opinion he hasn't shown enough this year.
Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn and Amani Hansberry clearly won't play enough to warrant NBA attention this year, but could have eyes on them if they receive extended minutes in future years.
Regardless, this Illinois team has been super fun to watch game in and game out this season! Having players move onto the next level is always rewarding, and so is winning games at the college level.
This team is built to do both.