Thank you to the Illinois basketball seniors who made the last two seasons magical

Rising from the ashes, the women's Illinois basketball team has become a relevant program again. It is all thanks to the seniors who are departing.
Illinois v Iowa
Illinois v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

The women’s Illinois basketball regular season has come to an end, and most people were expecting a better result, especially after last season.

With high expectations, a 14-14 record does seem like a bit of a disappointment for the Illini. Let’s take a step back, though. Last season, Illinois overachieved and no one saw us coming. In 2023-24, teams were more prepared for the Illini, and we faced some tougher teams in the non-conference.

I also want to point out that expectations are a good thing. It means you are on the right path. It means you have relevancy as a program, something that had eluded the Illini women’s team before Shauna Green arrived.

The last two years have been a wild ride for the women’s Illinois basketball team. We went from the bottom of not only the Big Ten but also the country as a program to knocking off talented teams and being a threat. None of this was possible without the seniors.

Thank you to all of the women’s Illinois basketball seniors who brought the program back to relevancy

I wanted to take a minute to thank the seniors on the women’s Illinois basketball team. They were the engine of the bus that drove us to relevancy again, and it is greatly appreciated.

Let’s take a look at what was achieved in the last two years. For starters, the team last year made the NCAA tournament. This was the first time Illinois had gone to the Big Dance since the 2002-03 campaign.

Illinois has won 35 regular season games over the past two seasons. That is four more wins than the previous three seasons combined. The 21-win campaign two seasons ago was the most wins in the regular season since the 1999-2000 season.

The Illini have seen tremendous Big Ten success in the past two seasons as well. Illinois has a record of 19-17 in the Big Ten regular season the last two years. The program only has 20 total Big Ten regular season wins in the prior nine seasons. Let that soak in for a second. In the last two seasons, we have 19 Big Ten wins. The nine seasons prior, we had 20 Big Ten wins.

Success on the basketball court doesn’t go unnoticed by the fanbase, but we aren’t the only people who have our eyes set on the program. The seniors leading the Illini are also helping the program on the recruiting front.

Illinois landed Cori Allen and Gretchen Dolan from the class of 2023. Dolan became a huge part of the team down the stretch. For the season, Dolan averaged 17.2 minutes, 4.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 39.7% from the field, and 28.3% from three-point range.

Dolan’s numbers increased in the final 13 games, though. She was boosted up to 23.9 minutes per game and averaged 6.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Dolan improved her shooting numbers as well, hitting 43.9% of her shots from the field and 34.5% from three-point range. She is going to be a monster as a sophomore.

For the class of 2024, Illinois also has some firepower coming in. The Illini landed five-star wing Berry Wallace. She is the No. 20 player in the class of 2024 and will be inserted into the starting lineup from day one.

Everything I mentioned above couldn’t be accomplished without the senior class. Thank you, Jada Peebles, for sticking with this program through thick and thin. You were here during the really bad times, and you stuck with us and had some great years with the Orange and Blue.

Thank you, Genesis Bryant, for transferring in from North Carolina State and taking a chance on a new coach and a program that was flailing. Without your great guard play, Illinois wouldn’t even be close to where we are as a program today.

Makira Cook, thank you so much for bringing the dynamic duo of you and Coach Green from Dayton. You are such a dynamic scorer. The grit and bulldog mentality you bring to the court is so fun to watch.

I greatly appreciate Camille Hobby transferring into the program this season. Illinois needed more help in the paint, and Hobby was the perfect solution. I don’t know if I have ever seen a more buttery mid-range game. Hobby is one of the most talented shooters to come through the program.

And last but not least, Kendall Bostic. You transferred from Michigan State to a team in Illinois that had a record of 5-18 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten the year prior. What were you thinking? What I am thinking right now is, thank you.

Thank you for coming to this dumpster fire of a program and giving us hope. You transferred here and developed into an All-Big Ten paint player, and played so hard every game. You could have transferred out again after a coaching change, but you stuck with us. It means the world. Without you holding down the paint, none of this winning would have happened.

The 2023-24 regular season has concluded, but the campaign isn’t over. We still have the Big Ten Tournament coming up this week. Illinois has the ability to knock off top teams in the conference, so who knows what we are about to witness.

Regardless of what happens this week, I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to the seniors who are departing the Illinois basketball program. You mean a lot to this fanbase, and what you did to resurrect this team will never be forgotten.

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