On Monday afternoon, Oregon transfer forward Quincy Guerrier committed to the University of Illinois. The 6-foot-8 Montreal native will use his final year of eligibility as a grad transfer in Champaign.
(Insert Dustin Ford Canadian Pipeline joke here.)
This commitment has been a long time coming. Coach Brad Underwood has been recruiting Guerrier for five years. This was Illinois’ third bite at the apple. But the existing relationship and the sell of recent regular season success was enough to lure the versatile forward to pledge to the orange and blue…the other orange and blue, that is.
So how does this change the discussion around the 2023-24 Illinois Men’s Basketball Team?
Underwood finally landed his white whale. But will that white whale end up as a shark or a minnow?
Quincy Guerrier is a talented player. He’s been productive since he started his college hoops journey. In his best season, he earned All-ACC honors at Syracuse as a sophomore. In that season, he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. If he can replicate that production in the Big Ten, Illinois fans will likely be happy with his performance.
He’s not being asked to carry the team. He’s been an excellent role player throughout his career, and Illinois can present a similar opportunity. But he has to seize it. His physicality and aggressive play are reasons that his fit is so logical for the Illini. He fits as a four-man with above-average catch-and-shoot ability.
So what about the previous four-man?
Coleman Hawkins’ decision doesn’t necessarily diminish Guerrier’s impact either way.
The “positionless” ideal had mixed results last season. Guerrier has the ability to play some on the wing, although he may work best as a frontcourt piece.
If Hawkins doesn’t return to Illinois, Guerrier fits in a starting frontcourt alongside Dain Dainja. In this role, he serves as the bridge to Morez Johnson.
If Hawkins returns, Guerrier can still play as a versatile four-man with Hawkins as a point-center of sorts. This versatility means that much like at Oregon and Syracuse, Guerrier’s versatility will have an impact on the team regardless of personnel moves around him.
Quincy Guerrier helps the Illini, but does he solve the Illini’s problems?
Not exactly. But he is a net positive.
Again, he’s a capable but not elite shooter. He grades out as above average on catch-and-shoot opportunities. So his presence along with Marcus Domask and Luke Goode could help create more floor spacing.
But do you know what would create more floor spacing?
A floor general.
Illinois has a good band in place. Everyone knows what instrument they play, and they have some skill in performing.
But there is no conductor.
Illinois’ starting point guard for the 2023=24 season is not on the roster. Justin Harmon is a combo guard who can fill in at point guard, but he is not a natural facilitator. Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn is more of a scorer who may not be ready for that level of responsibility.
And even if he were, is this coaching staff apt to trust a freshman primary ballhandler?
Ty Rodgers has real playmaking chops. But due to his lack of experience, perhaps this coaching staff wouldn’t want to put the ball in his hands either. Not this year, at least.
Ditto for the recently-redshirted Niccolo Moretti.
We’ve all heard the rumors about guards who are not yet in the portal.
There is a high-scoring guard from the MAC who has raised a few eyebrows.
There is a stud playmaker from the Pac-12 who has created significant excitement in portions of the fanbase.
If Illinois lands either of them (or a comparable player with real pro potential), the outlook for the program is immediately enhanced.
Oh, and there’s another important NBA decision looming.
If Terrence Shannon Jr. stays in the NBA draft, everyone needs to up their scoring game. The loss of Shannon, Epps and possibly also Hawkins leaves giant holes in Illinois’ offense…
An offensive that was anemic in spurts and catatonic for large chunks of big games.
Assuming both NBA Draft prospects return, Illinois has one scholarship left. Presumably, that scholarship would be used on a primary ball handler and facilitator.
If they both leave, Illinois will need to fill three major roster holes and focus on playmaking, size and scoring. That’s a tough needle to thread, but last year this staff proved it can do some of its best work late in the portal cycle.
If only one of the two comes back, perhaps the Illini can fill one scholarship with a playmaker and leave one open for a mid-year player. That’s a risky move for a team that is old and built to win right now.
But what about prep recruits?
Well, Morez Johnson is still on board. So…gotta love that.
Illinois is pursuing local sharpshooter Cole Certa. But Micah Shrewsbury and the Irish are lurking in the shadows.
The Illini recently offered high-scoring combo guard Mikey Williams. He’s a west coast star with the offer list to back up the acclaim.
But this team will largely build itself through transfers. That’s how you get old and stay old.
In the end…
There are still more questions than answers about this roster. But Quincy Guerrier is an upgrade in terms of experience, consistency, and talent. He’s long been a target of this staff, so they probably have a solid plan for how to utilize him. This is a business decision for Guerrier, and this staff has convinced him that they have the keys to unlock his brightest basketball future.
Let’s see how they make that potential real this season.