Illinois men’s basketball returns to action in exhibition game against Quincy


The Daily Illini File Photo

Junior forward Coleman Hawkins attempts to block an Iowa opponent during the Big Ten Championships on March 6.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

After months of training, recruiting and transfer portal drama, Illinois men’s basketball will be back in action on Friday night to take on Division II side Quincy. The exhibition game will take place at State Farm Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Fans will finally get to witness the new-look team that head coach Brad Underwood has assembled, with a mix of new and returning players prepared to take the floor.

“(It’s) exciting to be back in State Farm Center,” Underwood said. “Last time we were out here we had a whole lotta fun. Excited to put this group out in front of fans and see what that looks like. Obviously we had a scrimmage last Saturday that was very beneficial, other than Luke Goode’s foot injury.”

Illinois will be boasting a strong roster this season despite losing star players such as Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, Jacob Grandison and Da’Monte Williams. After a strong summer of recruitment and transfers, the Illini will be putting out a unique team of players that will be looking to impress in the coming year.

Underwood confirmed that everyone will play on Friday night, something that has become standard practice when it comes to exhibition games. However, a notable absence for the Illini, mentioned previously, will be sophomore guard Luke Goode, who suffered a foot injury in the team’s secret scrimmage against Kansas last week. A timetable for Goode’s return has not been confirmed.

“It’s a big loss for us,” Underwood said. “Luke is a terrific player, a terrific shooter and a terrific leader, so we’ll see what that process looks like when he goes through his surgery and recovery.”

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Friday’s exhibition will serve as an experimental game for Underwood, who described working out the rotations as “still a work in progress.” While the scrimmage against Kansas was useful in gathering information for the Illinois head coach, Underwood stressed that he is still deep in the process of working out different possible starting lineups for the 2022–23 season. With players like junior forward Coleman Hawkins, sophomore guard RJ Melendez and redshirt sophomore Dain Dainja headlining the returning unit for Illinois, the versatility of the current roster is hard to overlook.

“I think one of this team’s strengths is we can guard multiple positions with different guys,” Underwood said. “It becomes more about guarding actions, but I think it will be a strength to this team.”

The Quincy Hawks could act as the perfect opponent for introducing the newer Illini to State Farm Center and to, as Underwood put it, “just see how our guys react to an arena full of people.” It remains to be seen how much competition the Division II Hawks will be able to provide an Illini team that was ranked at No. 23 nationally in the preseason polls. Quincy won 15 out of its 31 total games last season, exiting the Great Lakes Valley Conference basketball tournament in the first round following a 77-40 defeat to McKendree. Despite being an exhibition, this is a must-win home game for Illinois, and the skill disparity with the visitors should allow the team to showcase its talent.

After a 2021–22 season that saw the Big Ten title return to Champaign, as well as a second consecutive NCAA tournament run, the Illini have a lot of pressure to maintain the level of success that the program has come to enjoy in recent years. The personnel and depth of the squad at Underwood’s disposal in 2022–23 are certainly capable of doing something special, and fans will get a taste of what’s to come on Friday night.



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