LONG ISLAND, NY (WCIA) — Andre Curbelo’s connection to Illinois started long ago, before he ever knew.
“I think he’s like a second dad to me,” Curbelo said about his future coach, Orlando Antigua.
The Illinois assistant and Andre’s dad, Joel, played professional basketball together in Puerto Rico.
“He knows my dad,” Andre Curbelo said. “He knows the connection I had to Puerto Rico and here (Long Island). Having that kind of guy as a coach is good just cause if you have trouble or you have a problem with something you can go up to him anytime and he’ll treat you like a son.”
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood’s hire of Antigua, and his Dominican background, have immediately helped their chances in the Caribbean. Curbelo is now the third player the Illini have signed from the Caribbean since Underwood and Antigua took over, joining Andres Feliz from the Dominican Republic and Kofi Cockburn from Jamaica. Curbelo was one of the very first targets the Illini established in 2017.
“Just knowing he’s Dominican, he can speak Spanish, it made me feel comfortable,” Andre Curbelo said. “I know I’ll have that just cause he is Dominican.”
“It helped a little bit,” Angitua said about recruiting Andre. “I just think each situation, each student athlete it’s different. You try to connect what the university brings and what the university will afford them in terms of their education, their opportunity and being able to communicate that with the background of the relationships that you have with his family and the people in his circle, that obviously helps a lot.”
Antigua brought a highly touted recruiting resume to Illinois from his days at Kentucky.
Getting top targets like Cockburn, and now Curbelo, he’s starting to live up to that reputation with the Illini. And there’s plenty of 2021 targets he’s leading on as well.