No. 3 Guard/Forward
Starter: RJ Melendez
It is going to be interesting to watch Brad Underwood manage so much talent on the Illinois roster this season. I have RJ Melendez starting at the No. 3 spot in the lineup, but his backup could easily be starting in year one.
Melendez really came on strong at the end of the 2021-22 campaign. He was playing well and was one of the best players on the team in some crucial games. Melendez really showed that he could play anywhere on the court. I was shocked by his tremendous three-point shooting ability as well. He is a starter at the DI level, and I think Underwood has to start him this season for the Illini.
Backup: Ty Rodgers
The player backing up Melendez at the No. 3 spot is probably going to be Ty Rodgers. I mentioned this before, but Rodgers could easily be starting for numerous teams across the country. He is an extremely talented player who will get a ton of minutes for Illinois in year one.
Rodgers is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 49 player in the class of 2022. He made the U18 team and won gold this summer, so he is clearly looked at as one of the best players in the country. Illinois is getting that great player, and we should use him quite often. I expect 14-20 minutes out of Rodgers each night.