While things might seem doom and gloom for the Illinois basketball team right now, the future is still bright for this team on the rise.
The past month or so has been pretty rough for Illini fans. On March 8, the No. 23 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini defeated Iowa 78-76 which clinched the double-bye for the Big Ten Tournament. This was the fifth win in the last six games for the Orange and Blue, so the NCAA tournament wasn’t in doubt.
Just a few days later everything changed. The world of sports was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Illinois basketball was effectively over for the season. We waited for a half-decade to see the Illini back in the postseason and once the team was qualified, the NCAA tournament was canceled.
A week later, Illinois fans got a bomb dropped on them when rising guard Alan Griffin announced he would enter the transfer portal. Two weeks after that, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Kofi Cockburn announces he would declare for the NBA Draft. And then, a week after Kofi declared, Ayo Dosunmu would follow and also declare for the NBA Draft.
To sum up the past 30 days; we had the NCAA tournament ripped away from us and our team was essentially gutted as, arguably, our top three players departed the program in some form or fashion. But, with that being said, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The class of 2020 is the light I am referring to. Illinois currently has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation coming in this upcoming season. We are ranked as the No. 15 class for 2020 and we are the No. 2 class in the Big Ten.
Adam Miller leads the class for the Illini. He is the No. 33 player in the class of 2020 and the No. 7 shooting guard in the nation. He is going to be our go-to scorer this upcoming season. Andre Curbelo will be his running-mate. He is the No. 55 player in the class of 2020 and the No. 7 point guard in the nation. Curbelo’s handles are insane and should prove to be one of the best point guards to come through the program.
But this class isn’t done there. Illinois also has Coleman Hawkins coming in from the state of California. He is a big man who can stretch the floor. While he only ranks as the No. 156 player in the class of 2020 and the No. 34 power forward in the nation, he can run the floor and has great shooting ability. This kid has flown under the radar because of the talent of his high school team. Look for Hawkins to make an impact early on in his career.
I don’t think the Illini are done filling out their roster for next season either. There are more big fish to land to complete this team. But I think we are going to be okay. If Ayo and Kofi both stay in the NBA Draft it will hurt the program, but we have players who are coming in to fill those holes. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it is the class of 2020.