Illinois has narrow focus to round out roster

May 25—CHAMPAIGN — A sentiment circulating throughout college basketball circles concerns how rosters might be built moving forward in that level's version of the NBA's player empowerment era.

The transfer portal and the opportunity for players to benefit off their name, image and likeness have changed the game. Not to mention the recent developments Thursday that essentially paves the way for athletes to get a piece of the revenue-sharing going on in college athletics.

All the money has also changed how coaches might build their teams.

When it comes to scholarship usage — particularly at the power conference level — 11 is the new 13. And some coaches might not even use that many, as near constant roster turnover has become the offseason norm.

New Arkansas coach John Calipari has hinted he could be content with just eight or nine scholarship players.

"They're leaving anyway, and why would I develop a kid for someone else? Why would I do that?" Calipari told National Association of Basketball Coaches executive director Craig Robinson on his "Ways to Win" podcast.

Illinois will likely land closer to 11 than 13. The Illini already have 10 scholarships accounted for between two returning players in Ty Rodgers and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn and eight newcomers.

The full-scale roster reset this offseason has included six portal losses and five portal additions since April 1. Dain Dainja (Memphis), Sencire Harris and Amani Hansberry (West Virginia), Luke Goode (Indiana) and Nico Moretti (Florida Atlantic) have all found new college basketball homes.

Coleman Hawkins is still in the portal as he weighs whether to keep his name in the NBA draft or return to college. Maybe at Illinois or maybe elsewhere.

Illinois has plucked Mercer forward Jake Davis, Louisville guard Tre White, Arizona guard Kylan Boswell and Evansville forward Ben Humrichous from the portal. The list of eight newcomers also includes incoming freshmen Morez Johnson Jr., Tomislav Ivisic and Jason Jakstys.

That would cover what Brad Underwood has indicated will be the bulk of Illinois' roster moves. The Illini coach has three available scholarships for the 2024-25 season, but that won't mean three more newcomers. In all likelihood, there's just one more move to be made.

"I think you can have too many," Underwood said. "I think it's an absolute disaster to have too many. There's challenges that come with that. I think availability is a really good thing to have, whether it be late or whether it be at semester. We would potentially look at one more, but beyond that, I don't foresee any more than that unless something freakish just happens."

Illinois has addressed size and shooting with most of its roster additions for next season. Some, like the 7-foot-1 Ivisic and the 6-9 Humrichous, check both of those boxes. It's unlikely the final piece to the roster puzzle would be a shorter, non-shooter.

Underwood said he's looking for an "action guy."

"A guy who we can put into actions whether it be through 'booty ball' or whether it be through pick-and-rolls or whether it be off screens," the Illinois coach said. "A guy who has the ability to go score it. A guy who has the ability, if he gets double-teamed, will make the right pass out of it.

"It doesn't always have to be a point guard. A guy that is very comfortable handling it and elevating his teammates along with really having the ability to score. Not asking for much — just a really, really good player you can put in actions."