CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Brad Underwood called Andre Curbelo a basketball savant, praising his court vision and basketball IQ. The Illini freshman continues to play meaningful minutes–the most by any non-starter on the team. Curbelo came off the bench against Purdue on Saturday, scoring eight points, and dishing out six assists to lead Illinois to their eighth win of the season.
His off the bench production has left many wondering if the guard should be in the starting lineup, but the Puerto Rico native has embraced his role as Illinois’ sixth man.
“I actually like coming off the bench, because you get to see what my teammates are doing wrong and what we need,” says Curbelo. “I think every player that comes off the bench has a role, and I think that’s mine, just to come in, and get everybody going, and I think we’ve improved so much since day one since we started we’re becoming that defensive team that Illinois is known for.”
Curbelo embodies the ‘everyday guys’ culture of the program, but despite playing productive minutes Underwood says he hasn’t considered putting him the starting lineup. The Illini have gone with the same five all season, and Underwood says Curbelo works better in a role off the bench.
“You guys gotta understand Curbelo. He’s a savant, and he comes up and asks me stuff after shootaround, and I’m like wow he’s really thinking that,” said Underwood. “It’s because he’s watching so much film and is prepared, and he gets a chance to see that, and he changes the game.”