Top 5 NBA rookie seasons by an Illinois basketball player

Illinois basketball has a history of putting players in the NBA, and here are the top five NBA rookie seasons by former Illini greats
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6 / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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The 2024 NBA Draft could be a big one for Illinois basketball fans, as we are likely to see Terrence Shannon Jr. selected in the first round.

Getting another former Illini in the NBA is exciting. We haven’t had too many players to root for in the past decade or so. That could all start changing in the near future, though.

Throughout the history of the Illinois basketball program and the professional ranks, there have been some pretty impressive rookie seasons. Illinois players who get to the professional ranks have had success at least in year one.

I took a look at the best rookie seasons of all time. I wanted to see who came into the league and lit the world on fire.

Here are the top five NBA rookie seasons by an Illinois basketball player

Honorable Mention - Kendall Gill (1990-91)

This was a tough list to put together because Illinois basketball has had so many good rookie seasons in the NBA. I am doing a top five, but I don’t want to leave Kendall Gill off. So, I have Gill as an honorable mention to make the list.

Gill had a great career with the Illini, earning consensus All-American honors and helping the program to the Final 4. He averaged 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.2 steals per game in his final season with the program.

The NBA came calling and with the No. 5 pick in the 1990 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets selected the Illini wing.

Gill had a great rookie season. He averaged 11.0 points, 3.7 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game for Charlotte. These numbers enabled Gill to make the All-Rookie team in 1991.

The Hornets improved from 19 wins to 26 wins in Gill’s rookie year. The franchise had only been around for two seasons prior to Gill arriving as well. It was tough leaving him off the top five, but it was a coin toss between him and No. 5 on the list. Honestly, he is probably 5B.