‘They’ve meant the world to me’: Underwood reflects on Senior Night honorees ahead of No. 20 Illinois men’s basketball’s showdown with No. 24 Iowa


Logan Hodson

Graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer, graduate student forward Jacob Grandison and senior Trent Frazier set on the bench during pregame introductions during Illinois’ 86-83 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 24 at State Farm Center. The trio, along with senior guard Da’Monte Williams and junior center Kofi Cockburn, will be honored during Senior Night festivities prior to the game against Iowa on Sunday.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

After five years in Champaign, senior guards Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams will be playing their final game in front of a packed State Farm Center. No. 20 Illinois (21-8, 14-5), which still has an outside shot at a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, will take on a red-hot No. 24 Iowa team (22-8, 12-7) in its final game ahead of the Big Ten tournament.

The Illini will honor five players on Senior Night on Sunday: Frazier, Williams, graduate student guard Alfonso Plummer, graduate student forward Jacob Grandison and junior center Kofi Cockburn, though the latter two still have remaining eligibility.

“Time flies,” said head coach Brad Underwood when reflecting on Williams and Frazier’s legacy. “It’s hard to imagine that I’ll coach a game here next year without them in a uniform, and to me that’s sad, daunting. They’ve meant the world to me, my family. They’re family. I’ve got a ton of respect for both of them. They’ve had, in very different ways, unbelievable careers.”

Williams and Frazier have represented Illinois for the entirety of Underwood’s tenure in Champaign, batting through the highs and lows of the program. In the trio’s first year, the Illini won just four conference games and went 14-18, including a 13-point exhibition-game loss to Eastern Illinois in their first college outing.

Frazier, who now sits fifth on the all-time scoring list with 1,771 points, has been pivotal for his program ever since first donning an Illini uniform. Once known as a top scorer, the Florida native took on a different role when former Illinois guard and current Chicago Bull Ayo Dosunmu arrived on campus. 

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Frazier is now considered an elite defender, though he has still proven capable of hitting clutch shots and making timely buckets. He is averaging 12.5 points, a career-high 4.0 assists and a career-best 2.9 rebounds.

“He’s made the ultimate sacrifice to winning, and I hope when people think of Trent Frazier, it’s not the records that they think about,” Underwood said. “It’s the winning mentality and what he did to help this program turn the corner.”

Williams tore his ACL during his senior year of high school, something that was initially a concern for Underwood and his staff. But the Peoria native made an instant impact in college, eventually setting the program for most games played with 155 – and counting.

He has not ever averaged more than 5.5 points or rebounds, but Underwood points out that he does all the intangibles right and makes a difference every time he steps on the court.

“What a career,” Underwood said of Williams. “He’s the epitome of what I call glue guys. His numbers won’t show up in a stat sheet all the time, but his impact on games has been like no other. Not very often you find a guy who can play five positions, and Da’Monte’s been that. What a career, and I’m really proud of him.”

Grandison and Plummer have not been here for as long, as they both transferred into the program, but they also have been essential to the team’s turnaround over the last five years of Underwood’s tenure.

Grandison transferred in from Holy Cross in 2019, though he made his Illinois debut in 2020 after sitting out one season due to NCAA transfer rules. In his two seasons, Grandison has made 39 starts while averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists this year.

The Oakland, California, native still has a year of eligibility remaining following this season, though he has yet to announce whether he will use it.

“Whatever he’s been asked to do, he does, and he does it with a calmness and the California cool, as I call it, attitude,” Underwood said. “A guy that’s had a great, great career, a great, great season.”

Plummer has only been at Illinois for one season, but he has already made an impact. The Utah transfer has established himself not only one of the best shooters in the Big Ten but also one of the best shooters in the country.

Starting 25 games, including 24 straight, thus far this season, Plummer leads the conference in 3-pointers (89) and has the second-best 3-point field-goal percentage (42.0%). He also is averaging 15.1 points.

“I don’t know how you can have a better year than a one-year transfer’s had,” Underwood said. “We knew what we were getting when we got him. We knew we were getting an elite shooter, and the one thing that we knew was he would work. That was one thing that was very evident in the recruiting process. I would love to have been able to coach him longer than the one year, but for him to step in and impact a major college program with that ability shows his character.

“I would put his year as a transfer down as one of the best in the history of transfers.” 

Illinois takes on an Iowa team that has won five straight and eight of its last nine. Despite losing several contributors from last season, the Hawkeyes currently sit tied for fourth place with the Ohio State Buckeyes and boast one of the top scorers in the country in sophomore forward Keegan Murray, who averages a Big Ten-best 23.3 points per game.

Iowa also has one of the top offenses in college basketball, averaging 83.6 points per game, which ranks first in the conference and fourth in the country.

With tipoff set for 6:30 p.m. for State Farm Center in Champaign, the Illini will wrap up their home campaign before heading to Indianapolis next week for the Big Ten tournament. Illinois has already secured a double-bye in the competition, though it could be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed with a win or the No. 3 seed with a loss.

But before beginning postseason play, Underwood expressed his sincere gratitude for a group of players that have changed the trajectory of the Illinois men’s basketball program.

“A group of guys that have been instrumental in changing the face of Illinois basketball, and a group of guys that have sweat equity in a program that they’re really proud of,” Underwood said. “I hope that’s not taken lightly. It’s been a tremendous effort to flip this thing, and those guys are big, big pieces in flipping that.”



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