When Josh Whitman was hired at Illinois, he came in with the “We Will Win” slogan. Fans like myself got really excited about this vision, but knew it was unlikely to begin right away for Illini men’s hoops. They had just gone 15-19 and Groce kept his job. Groce then led his team to a NIT berth last season.
John Groce is now gone, and Brad Underwood is here. It started with landing the state’s Mr.Basketball, Mark Smith, and now Illinois’ top player has decided once again to stay home. Ayo Dosunmu, a top-25 player, is fulfilling that vision that Whitman had. After losing out on guys like George Conditt, Colin Castleton, Landers Nolley, and Elias Valtonen, this staff needed Ayo badly. They’ve got their guy now, and I can say with confidence that we will indeed win, and for men’s basketball, it is going to happen sooner rather than later.
People certainly wrote off Illinois basketball for so many years, but now, people will be forced to pay attention. I have no clue if Ayo will bring Illinois a Final Four chance or a national championship, but Illinois is relevant again. Don’t forget either that Talen Horton-Tucker is visiting this weekend and there are some big men in-state for 2019 that the Illini have positioned themselves well with like EJ Liddell and Francis Okoro.
Things are certainly trending up for this basketball program. This staff has momentum and will look to keep it rolling. Illinois has now landed the top two players in the state in back-to-back years. In-state recruits will take notice, and let’s hope this “best players in Illinois go to Illinois” thing becomes more than a trend, how about instead it becomes a tradition.
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