On Sunday, D.C. native Amani Hansberry committed to word of mouth Brad Underwood and Fighting Illini. The 6-foot-8 big man who played for Durant at the AAU circuit chose Eleni on a final roster that includes Miami, Virginia Tech, Penn State and Auburn.
So what does this mean for Illini in 2023 and beyond?
Well, Illinois just got a verbal commitment from a guy who’s really good at basketball. This looks like a consistent pattern. No more questionable prospects than Power Five sticks to Illini just to fill up the list space. The program is well positioned to be picky, and that eclecticism pays off in the form of a deep, versatile and talented menu.
Hansberry brings ingenuity and skill to Illini. It has a size that protects multiple positions. He has the mobility that Brad Underwood coveted and the bounce ability that sets him apart from players of the same rank. And speaking of arrangement…
Ranking doesn’t matter when you’re good at rating. When Illini showed Hansberry back in February, he was ranked outside 247 of the top 100 recruits. This led to some consternation among the fan base who used to land in the top 50 potential chances like Ayo DosomnoKofi Cockburn, Andre Curbelo and Sky Clark. Coming out of the top ten in 2022, putting so many of your eggs in a less-advertised target basket wasn’t well received by parts of the Illini fan base who care more about ratings services than ratings.
To complicate the situation, Hansberry was clearly the top target on the Illini board.
To the surprise of no one on the Illini Show, Hansberry has seen a spike to being near the top 50 spots. After a fantastic season on the EYBL circuit, Hansberry has become the true helium man in the recruiting circles.
Chester Frazier knew what he was seeing and clearly didn’t care about the arrangement. He cared about the player, and now the player lived up to his pursuit. This staff continues to work out and evaluate competition on the trail, resulting in a permanent reload rather than the gut rebuilding that permeated the 2000s.
Stacking is a real thing. Coach Underwood and his company had two commitments in the 2024 class (Chicago St. Rita Moores Johnson and elite extra guard ZZ Clark) but neither were in the 2023 class. The 2022 class finished in the top ten nationally. All this after two consecutive seasons in which Illini’s top 50 recruit was the first All-American in his junior year.
The program has lost former Top 100 goalkeepers Brendan Podzemski and Andrei Corbelo in the transfer window this off-season. But talent’s departure diminishes when employees grind, fight, and win Power 5 battles for freshmen and transfers.
Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer expired at the end of this season, and is the only player on the roster who can never return. But if the season goes according to plan, the roster could legitimately see up to four early departures for the NBA draft.
When you bring in elite talent, the NBA wants them. When you send that talent to the NBA early, recruits will sign up for prep. When prep recruits buy, you’ll have your roster reloaded without missing a beat.
This is definitely different than constantly sniffing at each individual guard target, isn’t it? Speaking of this topic…
The force forward will not be Brad Underwood’s white whale as it was Jon Gross’ guard post. Jon Evans. Galen Bronson. Quentin Snyder. Marcus Lovett. We all remember names. We all remember watching them dress up for someone else. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
For a while, it seemed like Coach Underwood would similarly struggle in pursuit of his perfect men’s quartet. Some of the big names that these misses are the ones in modern college basketball.
- E.J. Liddell
- Drew Tim
- Oscar Chiboy
- …and Brice Hopkins
The appearance of Coleman Hawkins and the presence of Dane Dinga underscore the importance of this position to Underwood. The Hansberry is a skilled shooter, a strong shooter, high intelligence and a versatile weapon. He’s the kind of fit that this crew seems to love (hey, Ty Rogers).
Chester Fraser dog. Anyone who has seen Chester in an orange and blue suit already knows this. But as an assistant coach, he has pushed Ileni’s guards to be even better. As a recruiter, he was the lead recruit at both Jayden Epps and Sensei Harris, two guards who “own that dog,” as they say. Coach Frasier definitely has a type.
And he almost brought future lottery pick Cam Whitmore to Eleni thanks to his hard-working style on the road. But there was no approx About Amani Hansbury. When the Baltimore native Fraser was in contact with the resident and capital city resident of Charm City, the connection was real. As of today, so are Eleni’s chances of not having to rebuild for the foreseeable future.
Illinois just beat Auburn to recruit. This means that Bruce Pearl is sad. And yes I am too resident Petty enough after all these years to raise a toast to.