Underwood on expectations: “We’re going to be the team with the bullseye on our back”

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood doesn’t run from high expectations. The now fourth-year Illini coach has plenty of national hype after both Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn announced they’re returning to college and withdrawing from NBA Draft consideration.

“We’re going to be that team with the bullseye on our back and everybody is going to be out there trying to beat us,” Underwood said during a Zoom interview with media on Monday. “Great teams handle that piece of it so we’re going to strive for that from day one.”

Several national projections have Illinois as a preseason Top 10 team. Underwood said he took a hands-off process with Dosunmu and Cockburn the past few months, as they worked through their draft process. Dosunmu announced his plan to come back to Champaign on Friday, with Cockburn following less than 24 hours later.

“Both those young men are going to play in that league (NBA), both of them are going to have opportunities but the time has to be right to go do that,” Underwood said. “We’re going to bring back what I think is the best guard in the country in Ayo Dosunmu, he’s going to have every opportunity to prove that night in and night out. And then we’ve got an opportunity to see the Big Ten Freshman of the Year become a sophomore and take that natural progression and at times Kofi was dominant. I’m looking forward to seeing that as a sophomore.”

Illinois is coming off a turnaround 21 win season, after losing 21 the year prior. Four out of five starters return, plus the addition of two Top 50 recruits in Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo, among others.

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