It has been a couple of weeks since the Illinois basketball team wrapped up the Spain trip.
This trip featured the Illini taking on three different teams from Spain. All three games went the way of the Orange and Blue, but this trip was bigger than just wins and losses. It was a good string of exhibition games to get a glimpse of what Illinois could look like this season.
I also got to see what Brad Underwood and the coaching staff had in mind when it came to which players were going to play where during the season. This short preview changed some things in the projected lineup for the upcoming 2023-24 campaign.
Here is the projected Illinois basketball lineup for 2023-24 after the trip to Spain
No. 1 Guard
Starter: Ty Rodgers
If the three-game series over in Spain showed me one thing, it was who the options were at point guard entering the 2023-24 campaign. Before these exhibition games, I wasn’t quite sure who would get the nod at the No. 1 guard spot, but I think the player emerging is Ty Rodgers.
At 6-foot-6 and built the way Rodgers is built, you wouldn’t expect him to be a point guard. But this kid displays all of the point guard attributes needed for Illinois to be successful. Just in the last game against the Catalonia All-Stars, Rodgers finished with three assists and just one turnover, to go along with his 13 points. That is the assist-to-turnover ratio I look for in a point guard. I think Rodgers will enter the season as our starting No. 1 guard.
Backup: Niccolo Moretti & Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn
I was actually pretty nervous about Illinois’ depth entering the summer. The No. 1 guard spot was a big question mark at starter, let alone the backup roles. But now that the Spain trip has come and gone, I feel confident about what we have at point guard.
I think the backup role at the No. 1 guard spot is going to be shared between Niccolo Moretti and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn. I don’t think one player will get an exorbitant amount of minutes compared to the other player.
Moretti impressed me during the Spain trip with his great passing ability. I believe he led Illinois in assists in the final two games. If Rodgers wasn’t on the team, I would be completely fine with Moretti being the starter. While Moretti is a slightly better ball distributor, Rodgers has him in nearly every other statistical category.
I also like Gibbs-Lawhorn getting a timeshare with Moretti. No numbers jumped off the page for this kid, but he understood what Brad Underwood wants to do on the offensive end of the court. Gibbs-Lawhorn pushes the ball when he gets it, and Illinois is at its best when we can score in transition.