CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Call them the International Illini. The Illinois men’s basketball practices this summer are bringing the world to the Ubben Practice Facility. A different sound too. Out of 15 players on the roster, seven different countries are represented. That wasn’t exactly the plan for Illini head coach Brad Underwood, but he’s happy with his progress across the map.
“I said we were going to recruit the world,” Underwood said during a media availability on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s good players all over. so it’s been a nice fit. I don’t want to say it’s something we set out to do completely but yet it’s kind of the way things have fallen into place.”
Four of the seven countries were on the roster last year. Nine players hail from the USA, Andres Feliz is from the Dominican Republic, Giorgi Bezhanishvili is a Georgia native, while Samba Kane comes from Senegal. But all of the newcomers were born in different countries.
“Kofi (Cockburn) is from Jamaica, and a young man from Belgium (Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk) and you’ve got a young man from Chad (Bernard Kouma) so we continue to add to those pieces and they’re good pieces that fit,” Underwood added.
Not only does it make the team diverse on the court, but it gives the locker room a chance to learn something new each day about a teammate that comes from a different walk of life.
“It’s an unbelievable closeness that this locker room has,” said Underwood. “It’s what I’m so excited, it gives me so much hope is this locker room is everybody’s got a different experience and no matter what that is and they share those experiences with their teammates and it brings a closeness and a bond.”
Bernard Kouma and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk are not on campus yet. Kouma just graduated last week, while Bosmans-Verdonk graduated just last night. Underwood says the plan is for both of them to be on campus in time for the team’s foreign trip to Italy in August.