The Illinois basketball program was able to snag transfer Jacob Grandison from Holy Cross in 2019.
Grandison has the potential to be a breakout player for the Illini this upcoming season. Illinois has been making a lot of noise this offseason, earning the honor of being named the No. 8 ranked team in AP’s preseason poll. Led by stars Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmo, it is hard not to be excited about this team.
The Illini will also feature other key players such as Trent Frazier, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, and Da’Monte Williams. These players are all sure to see plenty of minutes and are assuming prominent roles this upcoming season.
To add to the depth, the Illini will showcase an exciting incoming freshman class including Andre Curbelo, Coleman Hawkins, and Adam Miller. This group will get to learn a lot from the veteran starters and look to eat up time when the typical starters need rest.
While I have high expectations for all of the above players, in past years the Illini have needed that spark plug from the bench to keep going during scoring droughts. That player was often Andres Feliz. Feliz’s numbers were not eye-popping, but when the Illini needed energy coming off the bench, Feliz always seemed to be that guy.
One player who could certainly fit into this category of having “breakout potential” is Wesleyan University transfer, Austin Hutcherson. Hutcherson is already rumored to be dealing with back issues, however. So if he can stay healthy, it would not surprise me if he ended up being the “breakout star” of the season.
However, when looking for this year’s breakout player, Grandison seems to check all of the boxes and has my vote. He is versatile, energetic, and does not have any glaring weaknesses. In his sophomore season at Holy Cross, he led the team in scoring, was second in rebounding, and third in assists highlighting his well-rounded game.
The other factor that comes to mind when trying to select a breakout player is opportunities. Grandison’s ability to play as either a guard or a forward is a key factor. I could easily see him subbing in for Williams or Dosunmo when these starters need a break. His ability to spread the floor is going to give him minutes amid a very deep Illini bench.
Grandison’s experience at the DI level is also something I believe Brad Underwood is going to like to use in late-game situations. The difference for me with Grandison are his abilities to spread the floor, his versatility to play either as a guard or forward, and his experience. If he can continue to do what he did at Holy Cross, we might be looking at the biggest surprise of the 2020-21 season for the Illini.