Brad Underwood gives insight into new-look team at Illinois men’s basketball media day


The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood watches from the sidelines of the Big Ten Tournament game on March 11.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

With the start of the college basketball season rapidly approaching, Illinois hosted an on-campus media day, giving insight into the team’s preparations heading into the 2022–2023 season. The event began with a press conference with head coach Brad Underwood.

“It’s always a fun time of year to coach,” Underwood said. “This group has been unbelievable in terms of their work ethic, the new guys’ ability to grasp what we’re doing and then to back that up with really good questions and a lot of film work.”

Illinois will have multiple fresh faces taking the court this season, but the lack of college experience among freshmen on the team, particularly at the point guard position, doesn’t scare the coaching staff.

“I think you’re always a little bit leery of young guys in the backcourt,” Underwood said. “But they’re really talented. We’ve been playing Terrence Shannon a lot on the ball. (Coleman Hawkins) shifts over and plays on the ball based on matchups. We’re not as dominant a ball handling team as maybe we’ve been in the past, but those guys are really, really good.”

Underwood placed heavy emphasis on the work ethic this group of players possesses collectively and individually.

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“I loved the way Terrence Shannon has come here,” Underwood said. “He’s on a 30,000 shot (makes per) month. So, he gets up at 4:45 every morning and makes a thousand shots before we work out, it’s pretty cool.”

Building culture has been a focus of Underwood’s during his time coaching the Illini. He has succeeded so far, managing to instill a tough, resilient mentality into the program at Illinois. The ability and willingness of his current players to get on each other to work harder during practices was an area Underwood feels is beginning to grow each day.

“We’re starting to see these guys assert themselves,” Underwood said. “That’s why we win, and we’re starting to see that.”

Underwood also discussed the recruitment side of college basketball, how the process has changed and what Illinois is able to offer potential players.

“I loved what (recruiting) was 20 years ago,” Underwood said, “When you could go recruit two guys in the fall and be done. You knew what your team was gonna be, and you had that class balance. I get it — that’s not gonna happen anymore. What I do hope is that retention and an understanding that we’re at a world-class, top-15 public institution for education, that means something.”

The importance of recruiting and keeping players to develop has never been more relevant with the NCAA’s addition of the transfer portal. In addition to bringing in top players, the program aims to add players who will stick around and build chemistry with in order to win championships.

“The retention becomes a big part of what we’re doing,” Underwood said, “Because we have great fans. Because we have a tremendous practice facility. Because we have the best sprint coach in the country; because our assistant coaches are the best; because we play in the best league in the country. If you can find a greener pasture than that, good luck.”

With many new players added in the offseason, the starting lineup heading into the 2022–2023 season is still far from decided.

“I enjoy trying to figure out the next way to help us win,” Underwood said. “It’s kind of reinventing yourself a little bit in some areas. I enjoy that.”

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