Sep. 5—Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
I wouldn’t say Illinois‘ point guard question was completely answered last month during the team’s three games in Spain. It’s still Ty Rodgers job. For now. But Illini coach Brad Underwood was high on what redshirt freshman Niccolo Moretti showed as a playmaker.
Underwood has also been high on true freshman Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn since the 6-foot-1 guard arrived on campus. Or, honestly, since the Lafayette, Ind., native went back on the recruiting market on Aug. 3, 2022, when he decommitted from Purdue.
“I’m with (Tim Anderson), and we’re watching an AAU game. It was Dravyn’s AAU team out of Indianapolis. I’m sitting there watching, and he’s going off. I said, ‘TA, who is that?’ He goes, ‘I can’t tell you that.’
“You can’t tell me? What’s the deal? And he goes, ‘He’s going to Purdue.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, shoot. I’ve got to face that for four years?’ Then he decommits. He said he’s decommitting, and I said, ‘We’re in. Let’s go.’
“He’s truly one of the most athletic young guys we’ve brought in. A gifted scorer who can play both the point and off the ball. An unbelievable worker and a terrific young man. Very, very excited about what his future is and what he’s going to bring to our team.”
Illinois went the freshman point guard route in 2022-23. It didn’t really work, what with Skyy Clark leaving the team in January and Jayden Epps perhaps a square peg in a round hole when it came to fit as a facilitator.
But don’t be surprised if the ball finds is in Gibbs-Lawhorn’s hands during the 2023-24 season quite a bit. It seems to be trending that direction.