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Kofi is hiring an agent and declaring for the NBA Draft. And this one is final - after pulling his name out the last few years, one more declaration means he has to stay in the draft. So Kofi has now officially played his last game in an Illini uniform. Long live the king.
This morning, in the 75 minutes I have before taking the dog to the vet, I'd just like to acknowledge the roster overhaul ahead of us. This is a complete and total overhaul, and I feel like some people still aren't aware of it, so let's just rip off the band-aid.
First off, we don't know what Jacob Grandison and Austin Hutcherson will do. Both could return for a "bonus" season (Hutcherson, having missed two seasons due to injury, could technically get a Covid bonus year plus a medical redshirt year and play two seasons). But Grandison walked on Senior Night, and Hutcherson has only played in four games over three seasons on the roster, so as of now, I'm just going to assume that both are leaving.
With that, here's the departures (and the stats put up by the players departing).
Maybe the best way to put that: There were 6,650 minutes of Illini basketball this past season. Only 1,287 of those 6,650 minutes return (19.3%). And Coleman Hawkins is basically half of those minutes.
Or maybe we should just list the points. We scored 2,456 points last season. 2,075 of those points are headed out the door. 381 points return. That's 15.5% of our scoring returning. Another way to say that: we lost 84.5% of our scoring. If Grandison and Hutcherson both return, then we return 679 of our 2,456 points, so we'd return 27.6% of our scoring. But that's the best case scenario. The best case scenario still has 72.4% of our scoring headed out the door.
Which means that this is our returning roster:
- Coleman Hawkins (JR) 5.9 ppg
- Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (JR) 1.6 ppg
- Brandon Lieb (JR) 0.8 ppg
- RJ Melendez (SO) 3.8 ppg
- Luke Goode (SO) 2.0 ppg
To that we add Baylor transfer Dain Dainja (who will be a redshirt sophomore) and the four freshmen (Skyy Clark, Ty Rodgers, Jayden Epps, and Sencire Harris). Three spots are available (two could be taken by Grandison and Hutcherson if they were to return), so transfers will be added, but that's where the roster stands as of today.
To me, that feels a lot like 2018/19. After the 2017/18 season, Mark Alstork graduated, Leron Black left school after his junior year, Michael Finke transferred to Grand Canyon, Te'Jon Lucas transferred to UW-Milwaukee, Mark Smith transferred to Missouri, Greg Eboigbodin transferred to Northeastern, and Matic Vesel went back to Slovenia. That left four scholarship players returning for the 2018/19 season:
- Trent Frazier (SO) 12.5 ppg
- Kipper Nichols (JR) 10.0 ppg
- Aaron Jordan (SR) 7.9 ppg
- Da'Monte Williams (SO) 3.5 ppg
I guess that's not really all that comparable. Only Grandison returning would make it close. The 2018/19 team had 33.9 ppg returning; the 2022/23 team, as of right now, only has 14.1 ppg returning (!!!). Add in Grandison's 9.6 ppg and we could get to 23.7 ppg returning. But that's still not close to the 33.9 ppg coming back in 2018/19 (which was the lowest number in a long time).
Let's compare that to previous teams. Those four players listed there were joined in 2018/19 by Ayo, Giorgi, Feliz, Griffin, and company and went 12-22. After that season only Aaron Jordan and fifth-year transfer Adonis De La Rosa departed so only 10.3 ppg went out the door. Combine that 62.4 ppg returning with Kofi Cockburn and we flipped from 12-21 to 21-10. Then we lost Feliz, Kipper, Griffin, and Tevian Jones (a total of 24.2 ppg) but returned everyone else (48.0 ppg), added Adam Miller, Andre Curbelo, and Coleman Hawkins, and climbed all the way to #2 in the country.
Maybe I should just list those:
2018/19 - 33.9 ppg returning from a 14-18 team, finished 12-21
2019/20 - 62.4 ppg returning from a 12-21 team, finished 21-10
2020/21 - 48.0 ppg returning from a 21-10 team, finished 24-7
2021/22 - 49.9 ppg returning from a 24-7 team, finished 23-10
2022/23 - 14.4 ppg returning from a 23-10 team, ??
Obviously everything is a lot different now with the transfer portal. We might add two players in the next month who averaged 16 ppg at their old stops and suddenly we don't have to rely on the freshmen to be ready. When the top five scorers all left after the 1998 season (and when Frank Williams only partially qualified and had to sit out under the Prop 48 rules), we knew we were sunk. Lon Kruger added a juco (Cleotis Brown), and sophomore big-man Fess Hawkins became academically eligible, but when you lost your top five scorers back then, it was mostly written in stone: bumpy road ahead.
It's easier now to add transfers and maintain a high level of play. Or just completely rebuild the entire team in a year (Iowa State last year). But as of right now, with Dain Dainja being the only transfer so far (and he has a total of six points in his college career), it looks more like a 1998/99 or 2018/19 rebuild. There's hope for the future (the 2000 season and the 2020 seasons were both really good), but probably a really rough year in between.
This is all perfectly fine, of course. Purdue just missed the Final Four in 2019, losing in overtime to Virginia in the Elite Eight. The next season, having lost Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline, and Grady Eifert (their Da'Monte Williams), Purdue fell back to 16-15. Which was fine. They developed the Ivey/Edey class, got back to 18-10 in 2021, and then 29-8 this season.
Right now, without any transfers, I'd say that's our future. With the roster as currently constructed, I think something around .500 is the likely result. Add some transfers, get Grandison back, and maybe we can push higher than that. Lose more players to the portal and maybe it drops even further.
Actually, no, I don't think it would drop much further. We already lost 9 of our 13 scholarship players.
Caution: bumpy road ahead.