Recruiting never stops for Underwood and company


Jonathan Bonaguro

Head coach Brad Underwood looks at the score during the Illinois’ game against Iowa at State Farm Center on March 8.

By Alec Busse, Video Editor

There is a saying that basketball never stops. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping our world has forced a stop to basketball. All the major conferences canceled their tournaments last week, and the NCAA followed suit, canceling the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

March is supposed to be a time of “madness” for college basketball fans, but that has suddenly been ripped away from everyone. The NCAA has also canceled all spring and winter sports and created a dead period in recruiting that began Friday, which restricts recruiting visits on and off campus. Coaches are still permitted to communicate with recruits through phone calls and text messages, but visits often determine the course of recruitment.

The spring and summer are the most active time for college coaches to hit the recruiting trails and see their top targets play on the AAU circuits. However, some of the most prominent AAU circuits, like the Nike EYBL, have announced the cancellation of all of their April events.

With the NCAA limiting recruiting access, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood and his coaching staff will have to rely more on quality phone conversations, but can a coaching staff really convince a player to commit to its school without actually seeing the campus and facilities firsthand?

The good news for Illinois is that its 2020 recruiting class is already full unlike the last couple of classes when Illinois was still looking to add players through the summer. According to 247Sports, the Illini have the 13th ranked national recruiting class and second-best class in the Big Ten, behind Michigan. Illinois could be involved in the transfer market for a power forward or a shooter, two areas the Illini lacked this season. But, scholarship limitations handcuff what Illinois can do related to the transfer portal.

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    An additional problem Illinois currently has is the over-allocation of its scholarship availability for the 2020-2021 season. The NCAA allows schools 13 scholarship players, and with only two scholarship seniors graduating (Andres Feliz and Kipper Nichols), Illinois needs a player to move on. Attrition occurs every offseason for college programs, and Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu could declare for the NBA Draft, which would open a scholarship for all three of Illinois’ 2020 commitments: Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo and Coleman Hawkins.

    Having finished its 2020 recruiting class, Illinois has been able to move their focus to 2021 and 2022 targets. In the last couple weeks of the season, Illinois hosted several of its premier targets.

    According to 247Sports, Illinois has hosted 2021 top-100 recruit Brandon Weston, 2021 shooting guard Luke Goode, 2021 top-150 targets David Jones and Jordan Nesbitt and 2022 five-star A.J. Casey for unofficial visits.

    Illinois has also gotten a nice head start with Mac Etienne, a 2021 top-60 center who took an official visit to Champaign for the regular-season finale against Iowa. Juniors, like Etienne, have been able to take official visits for a couple years, but this is the first time Illinois has taken advantage of the rule change.

    Ultimately, recruiting never stops for college coaching staffs, but Illinois has positioned themselves to get through the dead period because of the success they had in the 2020 class and the head start they have gotten with some 2021 and 2022 targets.


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