CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — In his second year as head coach, Brad Underwood is in search of something he says last year’s team never found.
“You know every time you face some of the best teams in the country what you’re getting,” Underwood said. “That’s what I want.”
An identity for Illinois Men’s Basketball, and it all started with the first practice of the season Tuesday morning.
“I think we took a step forward today,” Illinois sophomore Trent Frazier said. “Before the practice, we told these younger guys we’ve just got to be mentally prepared for this. Coach Underwood is unbelievable. You’ve got to be ready for what you’re going to come out to.”
Underwood says he came out to an energized and focused team in the three-hour workout at Ubben.
“I didn’t have to get on any of those guys playing hard,” he said. “They just know how to do it because winning is important to them.”
“We’re just more comfortable on the floor with each other,” Illinois sophomore Da’Monte Williams said. “Coming off a great summer we had, just building that team chemistry and we’ll be fine from there.”
The Illini are not full-go, however, as they wait for freshman Anthony Higgs and grad-transfer Adonis De La Rosa to return from injuries. De La Rosa is still recovering from a torn ACL.
“The thing I like about Adonis, he’s a savant,” Underwood said. “He’s a basketball genius. He knows everything we’re doing already.”
And what they’re doing, is changing a culture Underwood says he’s can finally stop fighting for.
“Are there going to be bad days? Absolutely. But that part of it, I can coach basketball now,” added Underwood.
And Illinois will look to coach up it’s young and eager squad after finishing 12th in the Big Ten last year.