Keaton Kutcher may be new to the Illini, but he’s no stranger to head coach Brad Underwood.
Kutcher’s dad, David, played for Underwood from 1993-97 when he was an assistant coach at Western Illinois. Now transferring from South Dakota to Illinois, he’s looking to write his own story by continuing to build on the two families’ relationship.
“Ever since my dad played there, Coach Underwood has been like family to us,” Kutcher told The Champaign Room. “It’s been a really, really close connection, and we’ve always stayed pretty tight with him.”
When Underwood was the head coach at Oklahoma State, Kutcher, a native of Iowa, would often go down to visit. He’s also been close with Underwood’s son, Tyler — now an assistant on Illinois’ staff — for many years.
Coming out of high school, Kutcher intended to walk on to the basketball team at Illinois. He ended up going to South Dakota because he didn’t want to turn down a mid-major offer.
“I was originally going to plan on doing that just solely based on how my dad feels about Coach Underwood,” Kutcher said. “And I thought if he feels that way about him, that would be something that’s really good for me to experience as well, playing for him.”
Ever since Underwood got the Illinois job, Kutcher has pictured himself playing for the program. When he hit the transfer portal, he knew exactly where he wanted to be.
Kutcher describes himself as a shooter, and that should be music to all Illini fans’ ears considering the team’s shooting struggles this past season.
“My main thing that I can do is shoot the ball,” Kutcher said. “So that’s something that I’ve always kind of prided myself on.”
In a season where Kutcher averaged 2.5 points a game on 50% from the field and 60% from three in 14 games played, he’s looking to give Illinois his all in a season where many holes will need to be filled.
“Basketball is everything to me,” Kutcher said. “It’s something that I’ve poured my heart out into for my whole life and I think Illinois is a great opportunity for me.”
Growing up 20 minutes from Iowa City in Mount Vernon, Kutcher unfortunately was originally a fan of the Hawkeyes. Luckily, he fell in love with Illinois as soon as Underwood took the job there in 2017.
Knowing Underwood on a personal level, Kutcher can’t wait to experience the culture at Illinois. It’s something he’s been looking forward to for years now.
“I’m expecting to join a family,” Kutcher said. “I can tell already how the athletes get treated there and I’ve received a lot of love already just one day into my commitment.”
Kutcher’s next plan is to set up a visit and get down to campus as soon as possible so that he can kick off his new basketball journey and officially start his career as a Fighting Illini.
“Just being under [Underwood’s] wing there’s a whole lot I can learn from him,” Kutcher said. “I’m really excited to surround myself with that environment everyday.”