Underwood duo ushers in new era of Illinois basketball


Photo Courtesy Of Devin Wilber

Point Guard Tyler Underwood dribbles past a defender during his time at Oklahoma State. Underwood transferred to the University of Illinois after his dad left Oklahoma State to become the new Illini head basketball coach.

By Thomas Polcyn , Illini hoops columnist

During his senior basketball season at Nacogdoches High School in Texas, Tyler Underwood never would have guessed he’d be playing basketball for his father at the University of Illinois.

After some injuries and adversity, Underwood’s original college plans fell through, but after making some moves and being offered an opportunity to play for his father at Stephen F. Austin, he made the most of his opportunity.

Fast forward one year later, and he found himself in Stillwater, Oklahoma, playing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

But after all that, he went on to make one more stop — where, hopefully, he’ll stay.

Growing up, basketball was always a big part of his life. With his dad being so involved in the game, it’s easy to assume that they had a long history playing together, but actually, it was quite the contrary.

“Growing up, he never really saw me play too much,” Underwood said. “He tells a story where I think he saw me play in my eighth grade year, he saw me play one quarter, so for him to be able to see me play every day now and just hang out with him doing what we both love is pretty cool.”

Underwood also added that playing for his dad is really special for him, but that he was not always sure how it would go.

“Going into it, I really had no idea how it would go,” Underwood said. “But, I think it’s been great. I think it’s a little bit different being coached by your dad, but I think it’s continued to get better the more we’ve gone at it and I think we both do a really good job separating our relationship on the court and off the court.”

But despite not playing with his father for that long, Underwood feels he has a great grasp on the ins and outs of his system, and that he can be an asset to his new teammates in adjusting to all of its nuances.

At the same time, while he helps his teammates on the court, they have helped him in making the whole process a seamless transition.

“It’s been a really easy transition,” Underwood said. “The guys have been great since I got here in the summer and started working out, and since I know the system I try to help them out as much as I can. The young guys especially like Mark, Trent — I know what my dad wants from us guards so trying to get his message to them as much as I can and help them continue to grow is huge.”

Leadership skills and knowledge of the system aside, Underwood is a strong guard that has the ability to make some solid contributions this season. At 6-foot-2, he’s a well-sized guard who has some strong court vision and can be a really good spot-up shooter as well.

Underwood said he is ready to fill whatever role he is chosen for, and that he is just excited to get out and work with the team.

“All I can do is go out there and work as hard as I can and be ready for whatever my team needs me to do,” Underwood said. “I can fill a lot of different roles and I think if we put it together we are going have a really great team this year.”


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