CHAMPAIGN — Brad Underwood had a transparent, concise plan for a way he needed to construct Illinois males’s basketball’s 2021 recruiting class.
In quick, there was going to be no such factor as too many lengthy, athletic, good-shooting wings.
Illinois formally added two extra gamers that match that standards Wednesday afternoon, signing four-star guards RJ Melendez and Brandin Podziemski to go along with four-star guard Luke Goode, who signed final November.
Line them up aspect by aspect, and it’s a trio that matched precisely what Underwood needed with this newest recruiting class.
“One of the things that we set out to do in this class was continue to add size, shooting, length and athleticism on our perimeter spots,” Underwood stated Wednesday afternoon after Melendez and Podziemski signed. “We’ve succeeded. A big congratulations to our staff on a job well done of not just identifying, but getting guys that fit everything we’re about.”
Underwood didn’t add three wings on a whim. It was a purposeful pursuit on the recruiting path.
The trio of Goode, Melendez and Podziemski assist Illinois preserve up with the Joneses within the Big Ten — the place large wings are prevalent — and in addition helps the Illini be ready for the inevitable. Kofi Cockburn received’t be round eternally.
“Kofi can cover some ills and some weaknesses maybe,” Underwood stated. The Illini revamped their protection with the 7-footer roaming the paint.
“He made up for some things. … When we started two years, ago we didn’t know seniors would be able to come back. We knew we had to identity getting bigger on the perimeter with guys who could rebound and guys who could shoot it. These guys fit the bill.”
The 6-foot-7, 195-pound Melendez and the 6-5, 190-pound Podziemski will give Illinois a pair of elite scorers. Both topped 2,000 profession factors in simply three highschool seasons and stuffed the stat sheet of their respective senior years.
Melendez averaged 24.3 factors, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.3 blocks and a couple of.2 steals in main Central Pointe Christian (Fla.) to a 33-7 report taking part in a semi-national schedule. He earned participant of the yr honors within the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association within the course of.
Podziemski was much more prolific at St. John’s Northwestern Academies (Wis.), placing up 35.1 factors, 10 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 4 steals per sport in incomes Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball honors.
Both shot up the recruiting rankings throughout their senior seasons.
“The one thing that should speak volumes is how good our staff is at evaluating players and not really getting too wrapped up in where a guy is ranked,” Underwood stated. “We knew what we were looking for.”
And that wasn’t simply any three large wings. There is likely to be some positional overlap among the many 6-7, 200-pound Goode, Melendez and Podziemski — significantly as a result of all three can play a number of spots — however all three boast the kind of different talent units Underwood values in constructing a roster filled with not like items.
Goode has sniper potential from three-point vary each in catch-and-shoot conditions and coming off screens. Melendez is the excessive flyer. And Podziemski can run the purpose one journey down the courtroom and play off the ball as a shooter the following.
“I love their versatility, but their makeup is different athletically and physically,” Underwood stated. “We hit a home run. Our guys were batting 1.000 in terms of finding different pieces that all have the one thing in common — size and ability to shoot and high IQ when it comes to the game of basketball.”
Don’t be stunned if all three wind up on the ground on the identical time. Underwood wouldn’t decide to that till he’s seen the place they match defensively, however a trio of shooters/scorers round Andre Curbelo working ball-screen actions with an enormous would make for a quite dynamic Illinois offense.
“A lot of really good options,” Underwood stated. “When you’ve obtained an elite guard, and I actually imagine this — I believe Dre shall be top-of-the-line level guards within the nation if not the perfect — choose your poison. He obtained to the paint most any time he needed this yr anyway.
“We’ve been very, very good with our rollers, as well. Now, you’ve got to really pick your poison. All these guys are very capable shooters — way above-average shooters.”
Scott Richey is a reporter masking school basketball at The News-Gazette. His electronic mail is [email protected], and you may observe him on Twitter (@srrichey).