Illinois Basketball Primer: Talking Illini’s 2020 class with ESPN’s Paul Biancardi

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

This is Part 2 of my interview with ESPN’s Paul Biancardi. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

While the Illini season was cut short, the Illinois basketball staff has maintained momentum with respect to their recruiting efforts. About two weeks ago, the program added its first addition to the 2021 class in 4-star shooting guard, Luke Goode. The high school junior pledged to start helping out the staff in recruiting more 2021 prospects to Illinois. Shortly thereafter, Illinois’ prized instate prospect, Adam Miller, signed his much anticipated National Letter of Intent. This solidified his commitment to Illinois and completed Illinois’ 2020 recruiting class.

The Miller Effect

Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 season, Illinois will need to replace a significant amount of production at the guard position. Thankfully, they were able to secure a commitment in its home state of Illinois in 4-star shooting guard, Adam Miller. Miller, currently ranked 27th in the ESPN top100, is the crown jewel of the class. Not only is he one of the most talented players in the class, he is one of the highest ranked recruits in Illinois history. Biancardi spoke highly of the former Mac Irvin Fire star. “He’s one of the best shot makers and scoring guards in the entire class. In my opinion, he’s one of the top five guys in the class when it comes to scoring the basketball,” Biancardi said. But just like any other player, Miller has his weaknesses.

Biancardi addressed that sometimes Miller gets caught up in his position rather than just playing basketball. “I think sometimes Adam gets caught up in being a point guard. I think that hampers his performance and production. And then at times that translates to the defensive end. I think as long as he hones in on what he does best, and puts the same time and effort on the defensive end, he can be really good.”

A Rising Star

In addition to Miller, Illinois also landed a commitment from 4-star point guard, Andre Curbelo. Curbelo, currently ranked 41st in the ESPN top100, emerged on to the national scene his senior year. His performance against Sierra Canyon High School is one that sticks out the most. Sierra Canyon’s roster consisted of many 5-star recruits including Lebron James’ son, Bronny James. Biancardi had the chance to call the game for ESPN. By the end of the game, Curbelo had a double double and was able to guide his team to victory. Biancardi had nothing but positive things to say about the senior from Long Island Lutheran High School.

“He plays beyond his years. He’s so mature on the court. He has great feel, basketball IQ, and is a high level decision maker who does not get caught up in his numbers but in winning. There are guys that make your team win and he is the ultimate winner. There is not a single guy I trust more in the senior class to lead a team.”

Watching Curbelo on the court, it is clear that he is one of the more gifted passers in the class, even if he isn’t the most physically gifted. One area of concern is his body type. This is especially concerning as he will be playing in one of the more physical conferences in college basketball. “It is important for Andre to add lower body strength and muscle, in general, so that he can bang with the toughness of the Big Ten.” Biancardi states.

(Photo courtesy of Rivals)

The Final Piece of the Puzzle

The third and final addition to the class is 4-star power forward, Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins shared the court at Prolific Prep with ESPN’s top prospect in the 2020 class, Jalen Green. Green received a lot of attention and as a result, Hawkins could be a bit overlooked. As a mobile forward, Hawkins can add a versatile skill-set to an already intriguing front court at Illinois. Biancardi also offered his thoughts on Hawkins.

“Hawkins is a high major power forward. He does some nice things in the paint in regards to scoring, rebounding, and mobility. He’ll be a developmental big this year. Overall, I think this class gives Illinois some much needed scoring punch heading into next year.”

How Good is Goode?

With the members of the 2020 class signed and officially part of the Illinois family, fans will look ahead to the 2021 recruiting class. As mentioned, Illinois landed a commitment from 4-star shooting guard, Luke Goode. Goode was the first recruit Illinois has landed from the state of Indiana since Jalen Coleman Lands. And unfortunately, that didn’t quite pan out. Goode could be different though. During his junior season at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists per game. These statistics are great. However, it is his shooting ability that gets many excited about his potential. Biancardi also offered his thoughts on Goode.

“He’s a good shooter, no pun intended. I think he’s a guy that just needs to get stronger. Most guys out of Indiana put a value on shooting the ball and he’s one of those guys that can really stroke the ball. I think he can be more than just a shooter. He’s a smart player and I think he has a chance to be a good player.

The defensive end is where I would like to see him improve upon just like all of these high school guys. A lot of these guys come in so gifted offensively, but their defensive awareness/defensive influence is not where it needs to be. I would like to see him improve upon this between now and when he gets to Illinois.”

Finally, Illinois’ 2020 recruiting class finished ranked 15th in the nation by ESPN. This is a great feeling for a program that just started to taste success during the 2019-2020 season. If there is a 2020-2021 season, Illinois will be one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the country with possible championship aspirations. If Dosunmu and Cockburn decide not to return to Illinois, that will be difficult to recover from. However, with the success the Illinois staff has had on the recruiting front, it seems as though they have the blueprints to have sustained success in the future.

For more on Illinois basketball follow me on Twitter @asethi03.