Looks Like University Of Illinois - Giorgi Bezhanishvili
I just spent 25 useless minutes searching for a snippet from a post I wrote after Underwood was hired (but I couldn't find it). In it I talked about his recruiting and how, given his specific offense, we might add some recruits who leave us scratching our heads. This is one of those recruits, I think.
The reason I had that recruiting thought was learning the Underwood offense and hearing him talk, in those early press conferences, about what kind of players he looks for. It didn't sound like the typical "I want to find great athletes and outstanding students" coach speak. He was getting very specific about wanting to find certain skillsets, most importantly, in his words, "passing".
And he continues to talk like that today. Here's an interview he did with (former IlliniBoard writer!) Alex Roux at the Final Four this weekend where he says, and I quote, "I'm obsessed with passing" (click on the date to watch the video):
"Now we've got to continue to add pieces that fit into our puzzle." @CoachUnderwood is in San Antonio, and he chatted about changes to the @IlliniMBB roster and shared how he evaluates new players he wants to bring to Champaign. pic.twitter.com/yveR6N0jHu
-- Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) March 30, 2018
Again, other coaches never get that specific. Which was what led me to surmise that Brad Underwood was going to add some recruits who would leave us wondering. He obviously wants to get great athletes and top-25 talent (see Dosunmu, Ayo), but he has also chased guys like Georgi Bezhanishvili - unranked, perhaps headed to Hofstra or Manhattan if it wasn't Champaign, fourth-leading scorer on his high school team at 8 points per game. That's not a guy who is going to show up in the top-300, let alone the top-100.
My guess? Underwood and staff saw him play (either in person or on tape), they saw him make some passes out of the high post, and that was that. Let's get him in for a visit and fly him mom from Austria because this is our guy.
Now, let's be clear. If he had his druthers, I think Brad Underwood would prefer that Colin Castleton was going to be that guy passing out of the pinch post, not Giorgi. Castleton picked Michigan and signed in November, so we're left to find that guy this spring. The pickings are slim, and Giorgi is who we found still available, so Giorgi is the guy.
Which makes this a very interesting recruiting class. Our best recruit of the decade... and three complete and total unknowns. If we were to rank the 30-or-so basketball recruits this decade (on paper, not their results once they got to college), Ayo would definitely be #1... and it's possible the other three are all ranked between 24 and 30 on that list.
That's not to say they won't be players that fit. I used the Robert Archibald comp when talking about Matic Vesel last summer. Arch was a complete unknown who Lon Kruger landed late in the spring, much like these guys. Samba Kane now has a ranking on the composite rankings (a low three-star, 279th nationally), but as of today, Alan Griffin and Giorgi Bezhanishvili are still unranked. Ayo and The Unkowns, playing at the SFC next winter.
Now, Giorgi did add a Minnesota offer this winter. After doing some research, Minnesota has landed several players from that high school (The Patrick School in New Jersey), so they attempted to keep the link going with Giorgi. That's an encouraging sign. Much like the offer from St. John's for Alan Griffin in January, you don't want to be the only high major taking a risk with an unknown kid.
But still, this is a project. There's no other way to put it, really. We see a certain ability (passing for a big man, most likely), we figure we can teach him all the other stuff, and we decide to take on the project. That won't lead to a lot of Tom Cruises, but it might lead to wins. Basketball is now in the Lovie boat - find the guys who do the things you like to do, play them early, hope it all sorts itself out in the future. I'd prefer the Francis Okoro-type here, but it's Underwood's program and he gets to shape the rebuild however he wants.
And if it doesn't work out? Giorgi Porgi runs away.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili, One and One-half Tom Cruises