Illinois' roster shuffle continues |  Sports

Illinois’ roster shuffle continues | Sports

CHAMPAIGN — The state of the Illinois men’s basketball roster 5 1/2 weeks after the end of the 2021-22 season was summed up by the on-court activity taking place Wednesday afternoon at State Farm Center.

Lou Henson Court was crowded. Nearly as many former players were getting shots up and working on their game as would follow when the Illini got in one of their final spring workouts.

The unofficial group numbered five. Alfonso Plummer and Da’Monte Williams, who exhausted their eligibility this past season, were putting in work. So were two players that hit the transfer portal in Omar Payne and Brandin Podziemski. Also back was Alan Griffin, who spent one season at Syracuse and started his professional career this past year.

The number of players on the current Illinois roster participating in Wednesday’s workout? Six.

Five on scholarship. Four who played last season. Just one who was on the court for all 33 games.

That’s college basketball in 2022, and Illinois’ roster took another hit from a depth perspective Wednesday when Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk announced he was transferring. The redshirt sophomore forward is the fourth Illini to hit the portal after Payne (Jacksonville), Andre Curbelo (St. John’s) and Podziemski.

“For the past three years, Illinois has been my home away from home,” Bosmans-Verdonk wrote on social media. “Thank you, Illini nation for welcoming me with open arms. I am forever indebted. After careful consideration, I have decided to enter the transfer portal with three years of eligibility remaining.”

Bosmans-Verdonk started twice during the 2021-22 season as Kofi Cockburn recovered from a concussion and played in a season-high 24 games after his first two seasons at Illinois were derailed by leg and feet injuries. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward out of Lommel, Belgium, will transfer with three seasons of eligibility remaining after averaging 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in his Illini career.

“Wish him nothing but the best and continued success,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said of Bosmans-Verdonk. “He was an outstanding student and put himself in a position to graduate and felt like playing time was something he wanted to try to enhance. Doing it elsewhere was something he was excited about. We’ll continue to keep recruiting as the portal keeps adding players every day.”

Bosmans-Verdonk’s decision to transfer opens up a fourth available scholarship for the 2022-23 season. Coleman Hawkins, RJ Melendez, Luke Goode and Brandon Lieb are set to return, Dain Dainja will be eligible after his midseason transfer from Baylor and four freshmen in Skyy Clark, Jayden Epps, Sencire Harris and Ty Rodgers have signed.

Illinois has mined the transfer portal for available players at all positions with a veteran lead guard, a shooter and a frontcourt piece a priority even before Bosmans-Verdonk announced his intent to transfer.

How many Illinois transfers actually adds, though, is an unknown. Adding to the ambiguity of the 2022-23 roster is the situation surrounding Jacob Grandison and Austin Hutcherson. Both have eligibility remaining — potentially two more seasons in Hutcherson’s case — but both were on the NBA’s official list of early entrant candidates for June’s draft released late Tuesday night.

Both are in position to return for a sixth year meaning a scholarship at Illinois for next season is not a guarantee. Neither has made any public announcement about their future plans.

Grandison and Hutcherson are two of 283 players on the NBA’s early entrant list. That includes 247 players with college eligibility remaining and 36 international players but not the draft eligible players that have exhausted their eligibility. Cockburn, who declared for the draft and hired an agent last week, is also one of the 283. The 2022 NBA draft on June 23 will feature just 58 selections after the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat were each penalized a second-round pick because of free agent tampering. College players wanting to retain their NCAA eligibility have until June 1 to opt out of the draft.

“Decisions to be made,” Underwood said of Grandison and Hutcherson. “It’s no different than what we did with Ayo (Dosunmu) and Kofi. Time will tell there. We’ve got to continue to recruit and build a roster and keep the lines of communication open.”

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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