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Illinois men’s basketball expects to be active in transfer portal as key targets remain undecided

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With the offseason comes change, a phenomenon that happens every year across college basketball. Though head coach Brad Underwood signed a new contract on Wednesday, the Illini roster is guaranteed to look much different than it did this season.

Starting guards Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Alfonso Plummer no longer have any eligibility remaining, while the team’s other two starters — junior center Kofi Cockburn and graduate student guard Jacob Grandison — have at least one more year of eligibility left and have yet to decide what their next steps are.

Sophomore guard Andre Curbelo announced on Tuesday that he would enter the transfer portal and look elsewhere after playing just 19 of Illinois’ 33 games this year. Missing time with a concussion and due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Curbelo averaged 7.5 points and 3.2 assists while making four starts one year removed from winning the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year award.

With the Illini losing several key pieces from its Big Ten regular-season championship-winning team, they likely will look to the portal to bring in some talent and experience.

The team has plenty of rising stars, though, in the likes of sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins and freshmen guards RJ Melendez, Luke Goode and Brandin Podziemski. Illinois also is bringing in three four-star signees in forward Ty Rodgers and guards Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris, all of which are the highest-rated players in their respective states, per 247 Sports.

The Illini also are in the mix for five-star point guard Skyy Clark. Hailing from Florida, Clark attended the same high school as junior center Omar Payne, who transferred to Illinois last April.

Clark recently released his final six schools after decommitting from Kentucky in March: Southern California, Maryland, Louisville, Tennessee, Washington and Illinois. The Illini are the only program that has conducted an in-home visit with Clark, per Travis Branham of 247 Sports.

If the Illini opt to look to the portal, they have plenty of options, including a few who are from the state of Illinois.

Former Illini guard Adam Miller entered the transfer portal on Tuesday after spending one season at Louisiana State. Opting to leave Champaign after one season, Miller tore his ACL prior to his sophomore season and did not play any games in Baton Rouge before a coaching change saw him decide to look for another home once again.

Miller started all 31 games as a freshman with Illinois during the 2020-2021 season, averaging 8.3 points on 39.1% shooting from the field. A known threat from behind the 3-point line, he shot 34% from deep and finished with the second-most triples of the Illini with 52.

Several of Miller’s LSU teammates are also in the portal, including guard Brandon Murray, who entered the transfer portal one week ago. Illini assistant coach Chester Frazier recruited Murray when he was still an assistant at Virginia Tech, and according to 247 Sports, he is interested in bringing the six-foot-five wing to Champaign.

In his freshman year, Murray started 32 of the Tigers’ 33 games, averaging 10 points, three rebounds and nearly two assists. He also proved to be a dangerous 3-point threat, knocking down 33.6% of his shots from deep.

Though Illinois did not offer Murray out of high school, he will likely be on head coach Underwood and staff’s radar.

Six-foot-six guard Terrence Shannon Jr. also has been rumored to be an Illinois target. Shannon is from Chicago, where he played high school basketball at Lincoln Park High School.

He has spent the last three seasons at Texas Tech, though he was heavily recruited by former Illinois assistant Chin Coleman and made an official visit to Champaign.

Shannon would give the Illini a huge size upgrade as their three starting guards last season were all six-foot-three or shorter. He also averaged 10.4 points, two assists and shot 38.4% from behind the 3-point line.

He will be a hot commodity, and a return to Texas Tech is still possible, but Illinois is certainly among potential suitors for the Chicago native.

Two other Chicago kids in the transfer portal could also be on Underwood’s watch list: Illinois State guard Antonio Reeves and Temple guard Jeremiah Williams.

Both players attended basketball powerhouse Simeon Vocational High School and would provide the height and size upgrades the Illini are looking for at the guard position.

Williams has reportedly received interest from Illinois and several other schools, per Jon Rothstein. The former Owl averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game over his two seasons in Philadelphia.

Reeves, on the other hand, would not have to travel far to represent the Illini, and he averaged a team-high 20.1 points for the Redbirds last season. 

Neither player picked up an offer from the Illini out of high school, though Williams reportedly has a good relationship with Illinois assistant coach Tim Anderson since he played for MeanStreets, the AAU team for which Anderson used to serve as program director.

With the transfer portal continuing to add names and college players still making decisions about where their futures lie, the next few weeks and months will see Illinois and teams across the nation actively out on the recruiting trail.

 

@JacksonJanes3

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