CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Three Illinois basketball players were already sidelined as the team opened up its first official day of practice on Wednesday. Austin Hutcherson (back), Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (foot) and Jermaine Hamlin (hand) all sat out the opening workout of the 2020-21 season. Illinois has plenty of depth on its roster this season, returning four of five starters, and that may be a very good thing for the Illini, as they try to play a season during a pandemic.
“I think one of the advantages of our team is our depth,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said. “We’ve got 10 guys, 11 guys that have all participated, played games. I think that’s one of the things I’m excited about.”
Underwood met with the media for more than an hour on Wednesday, updating the status for his injured guys. Hutcherson hasn’t practiced dating back to the spring and will have an upcoming evaluation to determine his next steps. The D-III transfer from Wesleyan (Conn.) sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, after becoming a standout sophomore season. He was a First-team All-League selection in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), leading the league in scoring, 3-pointers and free throw percentage.
Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk is nursing the same foot that forced him to miss his true freshman season. It’s a different spot on his foot, but it forced him to be in a boot. The Belgian is out of that now, but is slowly working back into practice mode, according to Underwood.
Jermaine Hamlin is also sidelined, after having surgery on his hand. The Lincoln product got hurt during COVID-19 and had a procedure to correct it. Hamlin has added strength and weight, according to Underwood, and is on the court but not doing anything live yet.
All three injuries are to guys who won’t necessarily be counted on early in the season. With so many weapons at his disposal, Underwood likes his options on both sides of the ball heading into the season.
“We have great versatility,” Underwood said. “We played big last year, at different times we played small. We fully expect to have guys out. I hope it doesn’t happen, I hope we’re blessed and we stay away from that but in the mean time, if it does happen, we’re in a nice spot.”