Top 10 Illinois basketball players who would have cashed in from new NCAA rules

There is a new NCAA on the horizon, and I couldn't even imagine how much former Illinois basketball players could have made from the new rules
Nick Anderson
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The college sports landscape has officially changed, and the Illinois basketball team is going to be affected by it.

There was a settlement between the NCAA and the five major power conferences on Thursday. This settlement puts to bed all of the lawsuits, but it also has in it that, starting in fall 2025, schools can now divvy out around $20 million to their players across all sports.

Obviously, this changes the game. The Illini will now have the ability to bring in top talent if the budget allows us to. With this new ability to recruit and retain players, it has me thinking. Who would have benefited the most from the rules? Which former Illinois basketball players would have cashed in?

Here are the top 10 Illinois basketball players who would have cashed in from new NCAA rules

Outside Looking In

Brian Cook (1999-03)

Illinois basketball had some great seasons with Brian Cook as a main player. He was a unique big man who could not only play under the basket but also took a three-point attempt every once in a while.

I have Cook on the outside looking in on this top 10. He was a great player, and I would argue better than some of the players ahead of him.

The success of Cook during his time at Illinois would have likely garnered some good money his way. He was an important piece on some great teams.

Illinois advanced to the Round of 32 every season. We also made two Sweet 16s and an Elite 8 during Cook’s time in Champaign.

While Illinois did a lot of winning, Cook had a lot of talent around him, which would have likely reduced his salary. He was the leading scorer on one team during his career. The more talent on the team, the more wealth that needs to be distributed. So, Cook is on the outside looking in.

Deron Williams (2002-05)

Illinois fans only experienced Deron Williams for three seasons, but they were a great three years in Champaign.

Williams didn’t have a ton of flair, but he came to work and helped this team win a lot of games. Just winning alone would have earned Williams a lot of money.

During his final season in Champaign, the Illini managed to advance to the national championship game. That is the first time in program history. Williams would have cashed in on that appearance.

A couple of reasons why Williams didn’t crack the top 10 would be his recruiting profile and an embarrassment of talent on the team.

Williams wasn’t a top 40 recruit in the country, so a team isn’t backing up the Brinks truck. He was a great get by Bill Self in 2002, but Williams wouldn’t have garnered top pay.

I think the talent on the Illinois teams during the three years Williams was in Champaign would have likely lowered his pay. On the national championship team, Illinois had five players average at least 10 points per game. We would have needed to pay all of those talented athletes. All five played in the NBA too.