You’ve all heard how giddy Brad Underwood was about his team’s awful performance against a tough, motivated group from Indiana University But In Pennsylvania. The lesson IUP provided was exactly what he paid for by flying them in.
What you haven’t read about is the exhausting practices Underwood wielded upon his team in the aftermath. These grueling days & nights may be chronicled, perhaps in a book by John Feinstein or Alexander Wolff.
It’s the kind of thing us local reporters don’t get invited to observe. Underwood arrived on campus promising to be open, and even share his playbook. The DIA had different ideas.
The month of March gets a lot of attention in college basketball lore. But these past few days, when your sports hours are spent with different balls, might prove the most important stretch in all of Brad Underwood’s career. Ideally, as the team prepares for a last engagement with Mark Smith in just three weeks, no one will complain about being worked too hard.
We’ll ask Underwood about his practices. But here’s what we know already: Where hard work is concerned, the coaching staff can’t say enough about Brandin Podziemski, Luke Goode and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk.
You might not see a bevy of minutes for those three. Maybe not in November. To this point, none is in the nine-man rotation, with only Goode on the cusp.
But because they’ve been specifically identified (and raved about) by all their coaches, and because those accolades were tied specifically to work ethic, effort and pugnaciousness; these three lesser-sung Illini are vital pieces for getting Illinois’s defensive problems fixed.
Then, fans in C Section won’t hear Underwood roaring about Leaving the Back Door Wide Open.
With Kofi Cockburn’s three-game suspension, Goode is in the rotation. Because Omar Payne saw only nine minutes against each of the Little Charity Sisters, you might conclude that he won’t be the starting center next week against Jackson State.
“Going small” affords Underwood an opportunity to play at his preferred, frenetic pace.
“Small” is a state of mind, especially when the “small” people are 6’10”.
Both Coleman Hawkins and Payne are considered perimeter defenders by their coaches. That is, they’re capable of guarding the wing.
Hawkins is an offensive threat, and Payne is not. So when anticipating the next three games, understand that Goode is more likely to get PT than any other newcomer, because he adds rebounding and sharp-shooting.
The status of Trent Frazier’s right (non-shooting) shoulder, and the current health of Da’Monte Williams & Austin Hutcherson will punctuate these rotation questions. Williams and Hutcherson sat out against IUP. Are they ready to go now?
We hope What Happens at Ubben Won’t Stay at Ubben (although, actually, much of it is happening at the State Farm Center because of construction).
Illini fans are ready for a memorable season. If these October and November days resolved some issues, while uniting the team to a common purpose, Illini fans might just get that season. And then we can all write books about Halloween Weekend 2021; the Defining Moments.
But first, they gotta clean things up.