No. 11 Illinois will be very tight during Tuesday’s season opener against Jackson State. Already without an All-American center Kofi Cockburn due to a three-game NCAA suspension, Illinois guards Andre Curbelo (concussion protocol), Trent Frazier (shoulder) and Austin Hutcherson (tailbone) will also be out for the 7pm tip due to injury.
That means Illinois is without three starters and probably their top three players: Cockburn, Curbelo and Frazier.
Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood on Monday it had been said Hutcherson and Frazier were day to day with their injuries. Frazier sustained the shoulder injury in the final exhibition game while Curbelo is undergoing concussion protocol. All are officially “day to day” according to a team spokesperson.
That means Illinois depth will be tested, especially at the point guard where Illinois is without the two best options.
novice guard From Monte Williams (5.5 points last season) and Jacob Grandison (4.6 points last season) will play much bigger roles, just like sophomore forward Coleman Hawkins, who will likely play downtown rather than Cockburn. Transfer to Florida Omar Payne and Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer will also play a key role, and the three real freshmen – four observatories Luke Goode, Ramses Melendez and Brandin Underground — will play bigger roles than they’re expected to play for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s normal for everyone to say we have depth, we’re going to find out how that works,” Underwood said on Monday of Cockburn’s suspension. “We know we’re going to get over 30 minutes per game without Kofi and multiple rebounds and multiple points. You just take the National Player of the Year out of a team and there will be a significant loss. It’s a great opportunity for others.”