Aug. 29—Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team:
Andres Feliz has thrived in Spain during the first two seasons of his professional career. Now, the former Illinois guard is taking his game global. Feliz has been a major factor in the Dominican Republic's 2-0 start in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, trailing only Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns among the Dominican Republic's scoring leaders.
Feliz has averaged 18 points, 6.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds through two games. The Dominican Republic play again today against Angola. The 6-foot guard went off in Sunday's 87-82 win against Italy, putting up 24 points on 8 of 12 shooting (including 7 of 10 three-pointers) to go with five rebounds and five assists.
Feliz isn't the only former Illini on a World Cup roster. Jacob Grandison is playing for Finland. The one-time Holy Cross, Illinois and Duke guard first played for the Finnish national team in 2021 in a pre-Olympics tournament. His mom, Carina, is Finnish, and his grandfather is noted Finnish astronomer Nils Mustelin.
Grandison has played sparingly for Finland it its first two games. He had two assists and one rebound in a 98-72 loss to Australia and scored two points in a 98-88 loss to Japan.
This year's World Cup is being held in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia. There are several other notable players on World Cup rosters with Big Ten or Illinois ties.
Former Maryland big man Bruno Fernando plays for Angola and shares a frontcourt with one-time Illinois recruiting target Silvio de Sousa. Michigan is well represented with Franz and Mo Wagner playing for Germany, Ignas Brazdeikis for Lithuania and current forward Olivier Nkamhoua for Finland. The Finnish team also includes former Arizona State guard Elias Valtonen, who, like Nkamhoua, was once an Illini target.
Nebraska guard Keisei Tominaga is playing for Japan, and Purdue center is on the Team Canada roster. Former Stephen F. Austin forward Thomas Walkup — a Brad Underwood favorite — plays for Greece. Walkup received his Greek citizenship (an honorary naturalization) this past April.
Former Illinois guard Andre Curbelo was on Puerto Rico's roster leading into the World Cup at the Central American and Caribbean Games, but he was suspended indefinitely by the team during that tournament. Puerto Rico does have former Corliss center George Conditt IV, who was an Illinois recruiting target and played at Iowa State. The U.S., of course, has former Stevenson star Jalen Brunson, who picked Villanova over Illinois and won two national titles.