Boswell intrigued by guard freedom at Illinois

Apr. 16—CHAMPAIGN — Kylan Boswell spent a lot of time talking with Marcus Domask during his weekend visit to Illinois.

Picking his brain.

Getting a feel for the Illini offense.

The two aren't the same player, of course.

Domask was essentially a power forward for four seasons at Southern Illinois before eventually being handed the keys to the Illinois offense.

A full commitment to "booty ball" saw Domask turn into an All-Big Ten First Team player and one of the top scorers in the league.

Boswell, of course, has never been anything but a point guard. He was a point guard when he was leading Urbana Middle School to the state tournament in 2018.

A point guard when he won a state title at Centennial (Calif.) and a gold medal with Team USA at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship in 2021. And a point guard at Arizona the past two seasons.

Boswell was already leaning toward Illinois once he hit the transfer portal — immediate interest from Brad Underwood and Co. certainly helped — but it's the way the Illini staff lets its guards operate that helped seal the deal with the Champaign native's Sunday commitment.

"They definitely let their guards play," Boswell told The News-Gazette. "I know coach instills a lot of confidence in his guards. ... (Domask) got to play his game and play within a Coach Underwood offense. I'm definitely going to watch a lot of film on him and just try to take away stuff he was doing throughout the year and apply it to me in the system."

Boswell shared the Arizona backcourt Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey and Pelle Larsson in the 2022-23 seaspm. The five-star freshman came off the bench in all 35 games and averaged 4.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 15.2 minutes per game.

The situation didn't really change this past season. Boswell was still part of a crowded backcourt along with Larsson, Caleb Love, Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound guard played more — his minutes jumped to 26.9 per game — and his production rose accordingly to 9.6 points, 3.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. He shot 41 percent overall, 38 percent from three-point range and 79 percent at the free-throw line.

Boswell scored a career-high 20 points to go with eight assists in Arizona's first-round NCAA tournament win against Long Beach State. Following that up with just five total points in the second round and Sweet 16 combined mirrored some of his inconsistent production during his sophomore season.

But for every four-point performance like in a Pac-12 tournament loss to Oregon, there was a strong showing in another big game. Boswell had 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in Arizona's early-season win at Duke. He also put up 15 points, five steals, four rebounds and four assists in a December win against Alabama.

Choosing to enter the transfer portal — choosing Illinois — is about a fresh start. A chance for Boswell to reset his career.

"What's expected from me coming into this next year," Boswell said, noting what's different for him now. "What (the coaches are) looking for. What they want to see. My expectations for myself with my body, my mentality. Everything is different coming from a 17-year-old freshman to about to be a 19-year-old junior."

Boswell has some personal goals he's already set. Earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors is among them. He's got goals for Illinois, too. Mostly related to March (and April).

"I have two years of college basketball under my belt — a lot of big games already," Boswell said. "I've been in the tournament twice now, so I know what to expect. I know what's needed to get to that point and, with this team, try and get farther than even what they got to. That's Coach Underwood's big thing. Get past the Elite Eight and get to the last two games."