Illinois Basketball: Illini eyeing best center available for the class of 2023

Illinois basketball is going on a fishing trip in hopes to catch one of the biggest fish in the class of 2023.

The Illini have already secured a solid recruiting class for 2023. We have a group coming in that ranks No. 23 in the nation, and there are important pieces entering the program who will fill some big voids.

I can’t wait to see what Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn can do in the backcourt with Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris. These three are going to be insane. Amani Hansberry is also coming in. He is going to be a great option at the No. 4 spot for the Illini. But there is one position that is missing: the No. 5 spot.

That is where Dennis Evans could come into play. He is a 7-foot-1, 210-pound center from Hillcrest Prep in Riverside, California. He is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 18 player in the class of 2023. He is also the No. 3 center in the country and the No. 4 player coming out of California.

Evans took a couple of official visits back in September 2022. He then committed and signed with Minnesota in November. Well, on Friday, Evans backed out of his commitment to the Golden Gophers. This has opened the door to programs swooping in and trying to land one of the best recruits left in the 2023 class.

Class of 2023 center Dennis Evans is on the radar of the Illinois basketball team

We are only a few days removed from Evans’ recruitment being open again, and teams are already pursuing this kid. Among those teams eyeing the big man is Illinois.

On Sunday, Tobias Bass of The Athletic reported that since Evans backed out of his commitment to Minnesota, he has been contacted by TCU, Louisville, Missouri, and Illinois.

It would make sense for Illinois to pursue Evans. Right now, the situation at the No. 5 spot is pretty bleak. The best option we have is Dain Dainja, and he is in a weird spot somewhere between a power forward and a center. Dainja has also been extremely inconsistent during his first year in Champaign.

There are times when I love what Dainja brings to the court. He has great touch within seven feet of the basket, but his play on the court is extremely scattered. Dainja can have games like the 20 points and seven rebounds against Michigan State, but then he can put up a combined three points and six rebounds in the last two contests.

I think there is plenty of room to grow for Dainja, but the Illini pursuing Evans makes all the sense in the world. He would give Illinois tremendous size around the hoop.

Evans, of course, does his best work in the paint on both ends of the court, but he is more than just a big body. His touch is impressive, and his timing around the hoop is solid. Evans is clearly a more polished player than most big men at his age.

The most impressive attribute about Evans is the fact he is a willing passer. Too many times you see a big man get the ball, and he turns into a black hole. That ball isn’t coming out regardless of how many defenders crack down on him. Evans has the basketball IQ to find the open man.

I love that Illinois is targeting Evans for the 2023 class. He would make a great addition to what is already going to be one of the best groups of players to come through Champaign in years.