Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Details
With no NCAA Tournament appearances since 2013, the FIghting Illini decided it was time for a change after finishing the 2016-2017 season with an overall record of 20-15 and a conference record of 10-8. Brad Underwood, previously of Oklahoma State, is in as the new head coach. Underwood has made an immediate impact on the recruiting front, beating out Kentucky, Michigan State, and Duke to land top recruit Mark Smith, the 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball award winner, just thirty-nine days into Underwood’s tenure. The four-star shooting guard wants to make his home state proud and bring Illini basketball back to prominence, in the face of much focus on rival Northwestern’s breakthrough NCAA Tournament trip last season.
Other Illini newcomers include a trio of talented guards. Mark Alstork, a transfer from Wright State, averaged 19 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists last season. Freshman Trent Frazier is a four-star point guard, and DaMonte Williams, a star 6’2, 180 pound PG, will add depth to the roster. The fresh faces will help fill the void left by Tracy Abrams, who graduated last year, and will complement returning pieces including Leron Black, Kipper Nichols, and big man Michael Finke. Those new players will hope to follow in the footsteps of past Illini greats, such as Donnie Freeman, Eddie Johnson, and Deron Williams, who took the team to its first National Championship in 2005, where they lost to North Carolina. This mix of new and old -- led by a dynamic new coach -- should help Illinois return to their winning ways. The program is ranked number 16 in all-time winning percentage and 14 in all-time wins amid the NCAA Division One basketball.