No. 5 Center/Forward
Starter: Coleman Hawkins
A lot of people are going to disagree with me, and when the season starts, this might not be the case, but I think Coleman Hawkins should start at the No. 5 spot this season.
Hawkins really started to develop as a player last season. He would average 5.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, but his second half of the year was much better than his first half. I see him as a starter for the rest of his time at Illinois. Yes, I realize Hawkins isn’t a typical No. 5, but he stretches the floor for the Illini and his defense continues to improve. Let’s ride with Hawkins and see how things go.
Backup: Dain Dainja
Most people are calling for Dani Dainja to start at the No. 5 spot. While he is closer to the Kofi Cockburn type of player, there is no reason to slot him in the starting spot.
Dainja only played in three games for Baylor and then transferred. He doesn’t have the playing time or proven ability yet to automatically put him in a starting spot. That is why I think Hawkins should get the start in game one. If Dainja does develop into a really good player, then we could talk about maybe starting him. For now, Hawkins should start with Dainja backing him up.
Backup: Brandon Lieb
Illinois’ second backup for the upcoming season is Brandon Lieb. He has great size but should be a backup for his entire time with the Illini. We should only see Lieb in blowout situations.