The Illinois basketball program wrapped up a top 20 nationally ranked recruiting class for 2020 with in-state big men and late riser, Brandon Lieb.
The top priority for any Illini staff will forever and always be locking down the state of Illinois. Lieb was not on the radar through the majority of his high school tenure and had plans to attend a prep school to gain attention. That is, until June 18, where Lieb racked up three Division I offers.
With scholarships available, four being big-time offers in with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, DePaul and Utah, the Illini staff extended a scholarship offer. Just five days after the initial DePaul offer, Lieb, from Deerfield, Illinois, committed to Coach Brad Underwood and Illinois.
With three high-level signees already in place late in the recruiting process, this signing made all too much sense for Underwood, Chin Coleman and the Illini program as a whole. With the consistent critique of the Illini missing on in-state recruits, the Illini could not afford for another one to slip to the Big 12, Pac-12 or the Ivy League.
In simple, the signing is mutually beneficial, as the Illini have time to burn with development while Lieb was bound for a prep year until a late recruiting push.
Lieb will enter his first season in Champaign at 7-foot and about 215 pounds. The consensus three-star prospect should likely have a narrow focus on his long term physical development as well as taking advantage of practice time competing against physically mature and skilled veteran big men.
Adam Fletcher will prove his worth with Lieb over the next five years. Lieb has volunteered his willingness to improve and rely on work ethic since arriving on campus in order to eventually dent the Illini’s rotation.
At 7-foot, with range extending out to the three-point line, solid feel for the game and ample length, Lieb has the pieces to be a contributor down the line. Outside of weight and overall strength, Lieb will have his work cut out for him in terms of rebounding, motor and the ability to contest shots effectively without fouling.
Lieb has a trajectory similar to Michael Finke with hints of Matic Vesel, but likely for him and the Illini program, he will not be thrown into the fire nearly as quickly. His development will be a marathon thanks to the depth in place. He will be eased into Big Ten basketball when the time is right with the hope that he can provide frontcourt depth, spread the floor and disrupt shots around the rim.
With Kofi Cockburn, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Coleman Hawkins and Jermaine Hamlin already in the fold, the staff can afford to play the waiting game and take a shot with Lieb.
What can we expect this year?
Illini fans are unlikely to hear Lieb’s name called upon much this season. To be fair, the Illini roster is showing major flashes of the potential to go 10 or even 11 guys deep. It seems as though in year four of his tenure in Champaign, Coach Underwood has constructed a versatile roster that allows him to be more creative and match up with up just about anyone in the country.
Thus, Lieb is likely to be a benefactor of the competition but more so in practices and scrimmages. Lieb is highly likely to redshirt and it would be a surprise to see him dress for an Illini basketball game in 2020-2021.
He should take a redshirt season.