Slovenian player Vesel signs with Illinois basketball

Slovenian player Vesel signs with Illinois basketball

By Gavin Good, Assistant sports editor

Within a week of signing three-star forward Greg Eboigbodin, Brad Underwood has bolstered the 2017 recruiting class with another big man, 6-foot-9 Slovenian Matic Vesel.

Vesel, who plays for the U20 Slovenian national team and has played with Slovenian club Helios Suns, is coming into a situation where he may get significant playing time early on.

Illinois is forced to deal with the departures of big men Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr., and Vesel could be looked at to make an impact with his size.

However, the 196-pound forward will likely be a focus of the Illini’s strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher, as the rough and tumble play of Big Ten competition will be an immediate challenge for the 19-year-old Slovenian.

He may split time in the front court with juniors Leron Black and Michael Finke and Eboigbodin.

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Illinois can take advantage of some of Vesel’s strong points, which include being a natural rebounder, good mobility for someone his size and his 6-foot-10 wingspan.

He has experience on the international stage, as he averaged 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds with Slovenia’s team at last summer’s U18 FIBA games. His best performance of the event came against Turkey, when he put up 14 points and brought down 13 rebounds.

For Vesel, choosing the Illini means picking education over turning professional, which he may have decided to pursue had Brad Underwood and company not come calling.

With the addition of Vesel, the Illini’s recruiting class consists of five players. That leaves two scholarship roster spots open for the upcoming season.