Denver forward Donoven Carlisle confirms Illinois interest

Donoven Carlisle dunks the ball against Western Illinois.

The transfer portal has been as busy as it’s ever been during the 2019 offseason. In each case, the student athlete comes to the decision to break their commitment to a previous program with the hope that a better opportunity presents itself within the transfer portal. This seems like a daunting couple of months for the student athlete as their entire academic and athletic career hangs in the balance. One can only imagine the emotional tole it takes upon players who make that decision. Especially, if the student athlete isn’t recruited as highly as others.

As someone who writes about recruiting for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I try to illuminate readers about individuals who are looking for a way to get noticed in the transfer process. Recently, I was sweeping through various media outlets looking for student athletes, currently in the transfer portal, that might have interest in Illinois. That’s when I stumbled upon Donoven Carlisle, a forward from the University of Denver. Formerly a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, I noticed that he had followed Illinois head coach Brad Underwood and Illinois assistant coaches Jamall Walker and Orlando Antigua on Twitter.

This piqued my curiosity, so I decided to get in contact with him. After some conversations, he confirmed his interest in Illinois.

The Transfer Process

Donoven Carlisle entered the transfer portal on April 2nd, and has been looking for a new program to call home. He is a rising junior, and will sit one and have the opportunity to play two years of basketball per transfer rules.

As previously mentioned, the transfer process is difficult. This has been the case for Carlisle. He told me that he had been in contact with Belmont, Bradley, Georgia State, Utah State, and Vermont among others. This is an impressive list of programs that have either made the NCAA Tournament or won their conference championship in recent years. Unfortunately, most of these haven’t worked out because of financial issues.

Carlisle spoke about the difficulties of the transfer process. “Not knowing where I’ll end up is really stressful. It’s almost August and I still haven’t found a school.” Believe it or not, this is common for student athletes that enter the transfer portal. There are only so many roster spots, so naturally there is adversity. I asked Carlisle if he would elect to stay at Denver if given a second chance. “Nope. Although it was the ideal situation for me in most people’s eyes, I just couldn’t see myself going back. For what I want to do and where I want to go in life, a change was necessary,” Carlisle said.

Game Statistics 

Carlisle measures at 6’8″, 210 pounds. He was an under-recruited prospect out of Arlington High School in Indianapolis, Indiana and didn’t play much AAU basketball. This is surprising because he had a fantastic senior season. Through 14 games, he averaged 18.9 points per game, 11.7 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game for the Golden Knights. He also shot 70.4% from the field. Once he joined Denver, that production decreased significantly. In about 10-15 minutes of game time, Carlisle averaged 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. This can be largely attributed to his playing time during his freshman season. In fact, when Carlisle played a season high 23 minutes in the Summit League Quarterfinal, he tallied 10 points and 8 rebounds in a win against Oral Roberts.

Another component of his drop in production was the locker room. “Having my dad as my high school coach was a factor. Everyone in the locker room had the same agenda and it made the game easier. I believe that’s what led us to go 20-6 that year.” Carlisle said.

Carlisle avoided the dreaded sophomore slump and improved upon his freshman season. He increased his production to 4.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in about 20 minutes of game time. Similarly to his freshman season, Carlisle’s production increased as his playing time increased. During Carlisle’s sophomore season high of 35 minutes, he recorded 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Lastly, Carlisle was probably the 4th or 5th best option on a team that had two graduate transfers and an All-Summit League point guard. So it is not a surprise that he didn’t produce big numbers in his time at Denver.

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Skills and Attributes

Analyzing student athletes can be difficult, especially with minimal footage. This is the case with Carlisle. Despite this, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him. On offense, he is a versatile player with the ability to cause match-up issues. This really stems from his size and offensive skill set. His skill set allows him to play the guard or forward positions for any given team. Carlisle explained his versatility to me saying “if a guard switches on to me, I could work out in the post. Contrarily, if I am being guarded by a big on the perimeter, I could attack him off the dribble and create something for my teammates.”

Additionally, Carlisle has a tremendous motor. This is evident by his ability to run the floor well, as well as his willingness to crash the boards – two things that coaches appreciate greatly across the country.

Image by @AlcantaraEdits

Defensively, Carlisle has showed that he can rebound reliably. Other than this, it’s hard to tell what type of impact he will have at that end of the court. In this case, his size is a weakness. “Everyone can always improve their game. For me, one of my weaknesses is my size. If I want to be more successful in the paint, I have to continue to work in the weight room and get stronger.” Carlisle said.

Ultimately, the transition from a mid-major program to a power five program is difficult. And it is certainly on a per person basis. With that said, he could be a quality player if he stays dedicated to improving his body in the weight room.

Why Illinois?

This is the million dollar question that will be on most Illinois fan’s minds. And rightfully so. Here’s why he could be an option for the Illinois coaching staff. Carlisle would fit a position of need for Illinois. The need for a dynamic wing has been reiterated by the Illinois coaching staff. Illinois had been after Utah transfer forward Donnie Tillman, but that interest seems to have stalled.

Now comes Carlisle. Illinois’ front-court is set this year with Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Kofi Cockburn, Benjamin Bosmans Verdonk, Bernard Kouma and Kipper Nichols. So, there isn’t an immediate need for a big. This would allow a player like Carlisle to sit out a year, and learn the system on the bench. Then, when Nichols graduates, Carlisle could slot in and fill his role.

Donoven is looking for a coaching staff that pushes him. Coach Brad Underwood has been known for his in-your-face coaching style and his family-like bond with his players. Some players run from this. Others, like Carlisle, thrive in it. “From the coaching staff, I just want to be pushed to be the best that I can be, but at the same time I want to be boosted with confidence by them. I want to be surrounded by people who want to win and get better everyday while being connected on and off the court.” Carlisle said. Sounds like Carlisle would fit the “Everyday Guy” mantra at Illinois.

Finally, Carlisle would excel in Illinois’ offensive scheme. When asked what style of play best suits his game he said “An offense that is fast paced and spaces the floor well. I feel like I was most effective at Denver when we ran a man motion offense.” Illinois’ offense has been predicated on movement off the ball. Adding Carlisle just makes too much sense.

The dead period doesn’t end until July 27th, so the Illinois coaching staff cannot get in contact with Carlisle until then. However, expect Carlisle to receive some interest from Illinois in the coming weeks.

For more Illinois Basketball and Football information, follow me on Twitter @asethi03.