’The European market is a good one for us‘: Brad Underwood weighs in on international recruiting after picking up Perrin

Former+center+Kofi+Cockburn+guards+an+Indiana+player+during+the+Big+Ten+Tournament+first+round+game+on+March+11.+Cockburn+was+recruited+internationally+from+Jamaica+in+2019.++

The Daily Illini Photo File

Former center Kofi Cockburn guards an Indiana player during the Big Ten Tournament first round game on March 11. Cockburn was recruited internationally from Jamaica in 2019.

By Conor Blount, Contributing Writer

As basketball continues to become more and more global, Illinois’ most recent signing of incoming freshman Frenchman Zacharie Perrin may foreshadow an increased interest in overseas talent within the program.

The program has not shied away from recruiting internationally born players in recent years, picking up Georgian-born Giorgi Bezhanishvili in 2018 and Jamaican-born Kofi Cockburn in 2019. 

Both Bezhanishvili and Cockburn were both instrumental in Illinois’ 2021 Big Ten tournament victory, and following Bezhanishvili’s departure for the NBA draft, Cockburn was Illinois’ leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker in the 2021–2022 season. 

However, Perrin’s debut for Illinois will be different. It is his first time playing organized basketball in the United States, unlike recruits such as Bezhanishvili and Cockburn who had carved out significant high school careers in the United States prior to being recruited by Illinois.

Illinois men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood described the recruiting process for Perrin as different from recruiting American players, noting that there was not much in-person interaction during Perrin’s recruitment.

“There wasn’t much in-person (scouting),” said Underwood. “It was a lot of recommendations, again Geoff has extensive European contacts and has been over there a lot … those contacts, when (Perrin) decided to make it to the states, we reached out to … and then it was a lot of film.”

Despite the increased difficulties of in-person scouting and decreased opportunities to scout in person, Underwood had nothing but praise for European players like Perrin.

“I’ve said many times that the European market is a good one for us,” Underwood said. “I love the fact that those guys grow up playing in clubs, they grow up practicing a lot. Their skill sets develop and there are so many practices involved.”

On top of more difficult scouting, Underwood understands the extra barriers that may come with international players once they arrive in America. Prior to receiving an offer from Illinois, Perrin committed to represent France at the FIBA U18 European Championships, which prevents Perrin from attending several weeks of offseason training with Illinois. 

Despite having less contact with the team during the offseason, Underwood is adamant that Perrin will get as equal a chance as anyone to earn a role with the Illini. 

“I had one experience very similar to this at Oklahoma State, Lucas N’Guessan missed the entire summer,” Underwood said. “I started him the first game.”

Whether or not Perrin will be a starter on opening night remains to be seen, but Underwood’s willingness to work with international players’ needs displays that Illinois is committed to finding the best players no matter how far away they may be. 

As the Illini continue to look for young prospects for future seasons, Underwood alludes to Illinois continuing to pursue international talent in the future.

 

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