The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

No. 25 Illinois men’s basketball prepares to welcome Ottawa in first exhibition matchup of 2023-24

James Hoeck
Guard Terrance Shannon Jr. rushes to the hoop as Northwestern begins to surround him on Feb. 23. Illinois will play against Ottawa Friday night at the State Farm Center.

After a summer of recruiting, training and European exhibitions, the time has come for fans to flock to State Farm Center as No. 25 Illinois men’s basketball gets set to tip off for the first time in 2023-24. The Illini will be hosting the Ottawa Braves in Champaign on Friday, giving the Orange Krush a first look at the new squad in action.

“Yeah, here we go,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “Great to be back in State Farm Center, great to see the bright lights, the orange and blue seats. Exhibition times are always a time of learning and experimenting and finding out what you have.”

Unlike last season, Underwood’s squad will boast a plethora of experience this year. Two notable and familiar names on Illinois’ roster include fifth-year guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and senior forward Coleman Hawkins, both of whom explored the NBA process before ultimately deciding on a return to school. Fifth-year guards Justin Harmon and Marcus Domask, along with fifth-year forward Quincy Guerrier make up the rest of the veteran list as transfers who will make their State Farm Center debuts.

On the other end of the court, the Ottawa Braves will be lining up to serve as the Illini’s first exhibition opponent on the schedule. The Braves finished the 2022-23 season with a 12-17 overall record and a 9-13 conference record. An eighth-place finish in the Kansas ​​Collegiate Athletic Conference last season saw the Braves land just below the middle of the standings. Friday’s exhibition will serve as a prime opportunity for the Illini to rotate the team and get everyone minutes on the floor.

“There’s nothing better than putting the uniforms on for the first time, running out in front of a packed house (and) it’s Homecoming Weekend,” Underwood said. “But again, we’ll play a lot of guys, we’ll look at a lot of different lineups and we’ve done no scouting in this game. This is about our base. This is about our fundamental stuff, the stuff we’ve been working on every day.”

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    The Illini will begin the 2023-24 season ranked after earning the No. 25 on the AP preseason poll. This marks the fourth straight season that the program will start a season in the top 25; however, Underwood and the team are striving for more.

    “It’s an honor, it’s a great place to start,” Underwood said. “You’ve got to start someplace, and I told our team you guys know me by now, I’m never satisfied. We’ve got a long way to go to get to where we want to go. We’ve got expectations that we don’t shy away from here, we embrace them. So, we’ve got work to do, we’re (No. 25). That’s not where we’re trying to get to, but it’s a good place to start.”

    Illinois will tip off in Champaign on Friday at 8 p.m. as it gets set to go to work against Ottawa. Illini fans can expect to see a wide variety of lineup combinations on the floor as the sights and sounds of college basketball return to the State Farm Center.



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    About the Contributors
    James Kim, Sports Editor
    My name is James Kim and I’m a senior studying English with a minor in business. This is my third year with The Daily Illini and it’s been an amazing ride so far. When I joined in fall 2021, I began as a staff writer for the sports section where I covered women’s tennis. In spring 2022, I became an assistant sports editor and started covering soccer and Illinois men’s basketball. From spring 2023 onwards I’ve been working as the sports editor! In addition to being an Illini and Real Madrid fanatic, I also love watching movies and TV shows. If you have any questions about writing for The DI, you can reach me at my email below. I-L-L!
    James Hoeck, Photo Editor
    Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.