Illinois Basketball: Another golden era for the Illini could be upon us

Illinois basketball has seen a massive resurgence since Brad Underwood took over the program in 2017.

Some people might dispute the fact Underwood has made the Illini into a recruiting powerhouse. I actually believe he has been the best recruiter Illinois has had over the last 20 years.

I know, that doesn’t say a lot, but 20 years is a long time. There have been some great players come through the program during this two-decade stretch as well. But I wanted to see where each recruit stacks up as far as their national rating.

247Sports has a list of the best recruits the Illini have landed. This list starts in 2003 because that is when the 247Sports rankings started. If it would go back to 2002, it would have been a completely different list considering it would have had Dee Brown and Deron Williams in the top 10.

Brad Underwood has landed some of the best Illinois basketball recruits over the past 20 years.

Who was the highest-rated recruit Illinois has pulled in since 2003? That would be Jereme Richmond during the Bruce Weber era. Richmond carried a .9890 rating. Two of the top three recruits came in the same 2010 recruiting class under Weber. Meyers Leonard is actually No. 3 on this list with a .9884 rating.

It makes you wonder what could have been if that class of 2010 panned out.

When you look at the list of the top Illinois recruits, you will quickly see a lot of familiar faces that have played for the program recently.

Three out of the top five highest-rated Illinois basketball recruits since 2003 have come during the Underwood era. Ayo Dosunmu is No. 2 at 0.9888, Adam Miller is No. 4 at .9884, and incoming freshman Skyy Clark is No. 5 at .9880.

The fact Underwood has landed three out of the top five best recruits for the Illinois basketball program since 2003 is incredible. The guy has only been here for five seasons.

Let’s expand out to the top 10. Underwood increases his recruiting prowess by the fact he has landed five out of the top 10 highest-rated Illini recruits since 2003. Think about that for a second. Half of the top 10 recruits who have committed to Illinois since 2003 have come since Underwood took over.

Do you want to expand the list a little further? Let’s do it. Seven out of the top 12 highest-rated recruits for the Illinois basketball program since 2003 have been recruited by Underwood. That is insane.

Finally, I want to note one more thing. The future of Illinois basketball is amazingly bright.

I have mentioned that seven out of the top 12 highest-rated recruits for the Illini since 2003 have come under Underwood. Well, we haven’t even seen three of those seven recruits suit up for Illinois just yet.

Clark is No. 5 and he is going to be our starting point guard this season. Ty Rodgers checks in at No. 12, and he should be a valuable piece to the puzzle for the 2022-23 campaign. Honestly, Rodgers could end up being the best player out of the top 12. The final player is Morez Johnson, who is committed to the class of 2024. He currently heads the top recruiting class in the nation for 2024.

Over the next three seasons, Illinois fans will get the chance to watch three of the top 12 highest-rated recruits for the Illini since 2003. If you aren’t excited about the future of this program, then you probably aren’t a true fan of the Orange and Blue. The late 1980s were a golden era, the early-to-mid-2000s were a golden era, and it feels like another golden era is upon us. Enjoy it.