After just seven players took the court for the Illini after their 71-68 win over Michigan State, the team took a big step towards returning to full strength health-wise.
“Nico has been cleared, so he’ll be in uniform on Sunday,” Underwood said during his media availability on Saturday. Through 38 minutes over three games this season, Niccolo Moretti has totaled 12 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.
The past week has been a big step towards a full recovery for the redshirt freshman point guard, who had been out of action since suffering a foot injury in the team’s win over Southern United on November 19.
Underwood shared that before Moretti’s return to practice on Sunday, he had around ten individual on and off-court workouts before going through five days of practice.
“We’ll see how the flow of the game goes,” Underwood said during his media availability on Saturday. “He’s been really good in practice.”
He shared that due to the nature of Moretti’s injury, his cameo off the bench may be shorter than those earlier in the season.
“Any time you have a foot injury, those opportunities will be probably a little shorter time-frame-wise than maybe they were early [in the season] just from a conditioning standpoint.”
Marcus Domask was also available to the media on Saturday.
“Nico is really good, you know, he’s just a true point guard,” he said. The team has been without a true point guard for much of the season, with the ball-handling duties being ‘by committee’ for most of the season.
“He knows how to create for others. He uses his body really well for his size,” Domask said, speaking on Moretti’s strengths. “I think he can give us a lift.”
The team has been battling issues with sickness, too. Earlier in the week, Underwood shared that Rodgers, who played 13 minutes in last week’s loss at Purdue, was battling a fever during the game.
#Illini Underwood: We've had 'the bug' hit us. Ty was sick at Purdue. Then went through us with Luke, Dravyn, Q & me. We didn't do much the last couple days.— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) January 12, 2024
Amani Hansberry, who has been dealing with back spasms, is still day-to-day.
The Fighting Illini will return to action on Sunday when they host the Maryland Terrapins at 1 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.