Looks Like University Of Illinois - Andre Curbelo
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If you haven't noticed, I'm an "OK, here's what needs to happen with a rebuild" guy. I'm good with a rebuilding process as long as it's tracking with the averages. For this basketball rebuild, a 2020 point guard was everything. Hello, Andre Curbelo.
I wrote something years ago (2012 maybe?) about how football rebuilds can take five years but basketball rebuilds you'll know in 2.5 years. And many of you (correctly) held me to that when John Groce's rebuild showed no life after 2.5 years. I had my #reasons at the time (which were mostly #excuses like the Abrams and Black injuries), but you were right - I said we should have seen something by then, and we weren't seeing something by then.
I begin that way to build to just how important it was to land Andre Curbelo. One of my big things about the whole "you'll know midway through the (basketball) coach's third season" is that you get to see that third recruiting class in November and then get to see a Year Three team on the court. So you can see what the on-court product looks like and then you can imagine what the future looks like and you can decide if this is the coach to do it.
The on-court product should look pretty good. We'll get to that in the big season preview (coming out on Tuesday but maybe Monday?). The future, if Ayo Dosunmu goes pro, still has some question marks. Andre Curbelo goes a long way towards answering those questions. No, he's not Ayo. But he's still massively important. Here's how I look at the whole thing.
After year one, Underwood cleans house (or, perhaps more accurately, "the University had to do an investigation of the program after complaints were raised by the parents of players who left so Underwood and Whitman made public statements about things that would change"). Regardless of what happened, four players remained. It's a full-on gut-job rebuild.
The first recruiting class included the player needed to make it all work - Ayo Dosunmu. Combine that with guys who were still here (Trent, Da'Monte, Kipper, and AJ), plus a few surprises in the 2018 class (Feliz, Giorgi), and the rebuild accelerator might be pressed to the floor. We enter this season with real-deal NCAA Tournament expectations.
BUT, there's a cliff ahead and no guardrail, so we'd better have some good tires for deadman's curve. Feliz will graduate and Ayo will likely turn pro, so there are two massive holes for Underwood's fourth team. Sure, we've added a few transfers who are eligible next season, but neither are Feliz or Ayo in their ballhandling ability. The big thing missing next season: someone with the ball in their hands. And since that guy isn't sitting on the bench waiting his turn, now it basically needs to be an instant-impact freshman. Coleman Hawkins is a decent piece for future frontcourts, but as a recruit ranked in the 200's, he's more of a project for the future. We need a guard who will be ready immediately. Actually, we probably need two of them.
Instant impact guard number 1: Andre Curbelo.
I use Twitter Advanced Search a lot. I remember seeing lots of praised heaped on Curbelo during the summer recruiting season in July. So I'll go to Twitter, search his name, and limit the search to just July. Here are some of the quotes from recruiting gurus attending summer events:
Evan Daniels: Impressive outing by four-star guard Andre Curbelo in Puerto Rico's loss to China. 17 points & 13 assists. His feel/IQ, vision & passing ability are superb.
Corey Evans: Who has stood out at adidas thus far? Isa Silva could not have enhanced his stock anymore; Dalen Terry is an elite defender; Jordan Geronimo has 3-and-D potential; Andre Curbelo is a premier college PG.
DeAnte Mitchell: Andre Curbelo has officially took this game over. No one can stop him in transition, no one can stop him at the rim, no one can stop him from getting to the middle....he's making this look easy. Jayhawks now lead 50-43 with 7:04 remaining. #adidasGauntletFinale
Samad Hines: Have to put 2020 PG Andre Curbelo (@papicurbelo11) up there with Cade Cunningham and Sharife Cooper as one of the top playmaking PG's in the class. Plays consistently, vision is on another level, and holds quick instincts when the ball is in his hand.
It was this showing that pushed Curbelo up near the top-50. Currently, in the RSCI, he's #53. Which means I need to update my list of every Illini player in the RSCI (since 1998):
19 Dee Brown
20 Brian Cook
21 Frank Williams
24 Jereme Richmond
28 Richard McBride
29 Meyers Leonard
32 Ayo Dosunmu
35 DJ Richardson
37 Jalen Coleman-Lands
43 Kofi Cockburn
46 Leron Black
48 Deron Williams
49 Brandon Paul
49 Brian Carlwell
53 Andre Curbelo
53 Brian Randle
57 Kendrick Nunn
62 Roger Powell
65 Mike Shaw
66 Myke Henry
69 Tracy Abrams
70 Malcolm Hill
71 Demitri McCamey
76 Crandall Head
77 Shaun Pruitt
77 Nick Smith
78 James Augustine
78 Nnanna Egwu
78 DJ Williams
86 Aaron Spears
90 Mark Smith
The hope now? That there's another 29 up there by Meyers Leonard (that would be Adam Miller). If he's guard 2 to Curbelo's guard 1, this class provides exactly what we needed. It allows us to look beyond 2021 and say that a 2022 team (if everyone is still here) with Curbelo-Miller-best wing-Giorgi-Kofi is still upper echelon of the Big Ten. Where we belong.
Tom Cruises. I think I'm going with four here, which might seem a little low, but blame Mark Smith. I got all excited at Mark Smith's presser and ran home and gave him 4.5 Cruises. He's only ranked 90th in the composite rankings? Pish-tosh I said - I'm giving him 4.5 Cruises. (That was way, way too many.)
So I committed to recalibrating after that. Kofi got 4.5 Cruises. Curbelo gets 4. And we get to dream beyond 2020.