LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (WCIA) — Three years ago when Brad Underwood took over the Illinois basketball program, he made New York a priority. First with Alan Griffin at Stepinac, then Kofi Cockburn at Christ the King in Queens, and now Andre Curbelo at Long Island Lutheran.
“Just the way they play,” Curbelo said about his appeal to Illinois. “The coaching staff, the way their fans are with their players. Everything was just great. I felt the support from the fans and the coaching staff so that’s what kind of got me into going to Illinois.”
The Illini offered Curbelo during his sophomore year in 2018. Since then he’s taken off and become one of the best, and probably most underrated point guards in the country.
“He’s underrated, under appreciated, everything under he is,” LuHi assistant coach Derek Klein said. “But he just wins. Like I told him, he wins. He gets the job done. Every big game we’ve had since he’s been here he’s taken care of business and he’s done it in some cool fashion as well.”
While averaging 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and five steals per game, Curbelo can do it all. He could easily go off for 20 or more points any game he wanted. But the 6-foot guard prefers assists over anything.
“I’d rather have 15 assists in a game for sure,” Curbelo said. “That’s just what makes me happy. Every time I drive, I throw a lob to Zed (Key), or to Drissa (Traore), or pass it to the corner for a three, that makes me feel better and it brings me more joy.
Sometimes his court vision is almost too good, catching his teammates off guard when he sends a pass their way.
“I can see the entire floor,” said Curbelo. “Sometimes my teammates, they come up to me and be like You, you have to look at me so I know the pass is coming’. That’s a tool that not every point guard has and having that is very nice and it’s very good because you can feed your teammates and they look good and you look good as well.”
When his first ranking came out in March of 2018, 247sports had him at 134. He broke into the top-100 less than a year later jumping from 120 to 76. He currently sits at 54 and if you ask the Illini staff, that’s even too low.
Curbelo is one of two signees and three committed players in the Class of 2020 for the Illini. California native Coleman Hawkins is also signed, while Chicago’s Adam Miller has pledged to play for Illinois, but has yet to sign a National Letter of Intent. The class is currently ranked second in the Big Ten, 12th in the country.