Starting five, key contributors for Illinois women's basketball

Jun. 8—The full schedule isn't known yet. But the roster is. Shauna Green will enter her second season in charge of the Illini with heightened expectations. That's what happens after a 22-10 record and the program's first trip to the NCAA tournament in two decades. Even with the season not tipping off until early November, beat writer Joe Vozzelli Jr. breaks down Illinois' 14-player roster amid renewed interest in the program:

The starting five ...

The 5-foot-6 guard will have some serious competition just to join the conversation for Big Ten Player of the Year honors (see: Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes), but don't be surprised if the Cincinnati native is at least in the mix by season's end. Cook is the clear catalyst to how far the Illini will go this coming winter after putting up 18.3 points, 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds as a junior with a shooting slash of .414/.342/.866.

Genesis Bryant

Illinois was a different team — in a good way — when the 5-6 guard was moved from a bench role to the starting five last December. Her triple-double of 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a blowout win against Florida Atlantic saw the Jonesboro, Ga., native's junior season in C-U really take off. Bryant also played a big role in convincing center Camille Hobby to transfer from North Carolina State to Illinois this offseason as a former Wolfpack guard herself.

Adalia McKenzie

Nobody on the Illini might have bigger upside this coming season than the 5-10 wing from Brooklyn Park, Minn. McKenzie tapping into her full potential will come down to two aspects: Developing a more consistent jump shot — especially from beyond the three-point arc — and taking another leap as a defender, particularly against other wing players. Still, McKenzie's ability to get downhill and beat opponents to the hoop with a quick first step is her best attribute.

Kendall Bostic

Bostic could thrive as a more natural producer at the 4 spot. Green has admitted as much. The Illinois coach said the 6-2 senior forward has "a beautiful shot from 15-17 feet." What the Illini will also want to see more of from the Kokomo, Ind., native is what has made Bostic one of the best rebounders in the Big Ten the last two seasons. Bostic pulled down 9.8 boards a game as a junior after averaging 11.4 as a sophomore.

Camille Hobby's Charlie Creme had Hobby at No. 30 on his list of top-35 transfer portal additions for the 2023-24 season. The 6-3 graduate student gives Illinois a true post player. A repeat of what the N.C. State transfer did as a senior — read: career-highs in minutes (21.3), points (8.8), rebounds (4.2) and field-goal percentage (51.8) — could move the Illini into legitimate contenders in the Big Ten regular-season title race along with Iowa, Indiana and Ohio State.

Key bench contributors ...

Jada Peebles

Peebles has developed into a three-point specialist. The 5-10 fifth-year senior guard from Raleigh, N.C., was a unicorn of sorts last season. Peebles, after all, shot better on her three-point attempts (45.2 percent) than inside the arc (43 percent) in year four in C-U.

Brynn Shoup-Hill

Shoup-Hill could shift to a role off the bench with Hobby in the starting rotation. The 6-3 forward — who started all 28 of the games the Goshen, Ind., native played in as a sophomore — will look to build off averages of 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds last season.

Shay Bollin

Will a change of scenery be just what Bollin needs? A top-35 recruit out of high school, according to espnW, the 6-3 transfer forward never found her footing in one season at Duke (averaged 5.1 minutes in eight games played).

To-be-determined roles ...

Camille Jackson

An offseason upper-body injury set the Chicago native back. And the former Butler College Prep standout had a hard time carving out a role amid a veteran-heavy Illini backcourt as a freshman.

Kam'Ren Rhodes

Unlike Jackson, who was recruited by the previous coaching staff, Rhodes came aboard a month into Green's tenure. The 5-6 guard from Chandler, Ariz., was solid (2.0 points) while playing spot minutes.

Aicha Ndour

Foul trouble was a big problem for the 6-6 post in her transition from junior college back to the Big Ten. Ndour had 31 fouls in only 107 minutes on the floor.

Samantha Dewey

Late-season injuries led to an increased role for the 6-2 forward as a freshman. Dewey played 11 or more minutes in four of the Illini's final five games — and was productive, too.

Cori Allen

The incoming 5-10 freshman guard from Nashville, Tenn., by way of Montverde Academy (Fla.), tallied 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Eagles. Montverde won a national title at the GEICO High School Nationals for a second straight year after a second-half comeback to beat Long Island Lutheran.

Gretchen Dolan

Dolan has been known to stuff the stat sheet. Named Miss New York Basketball after her final season at Williamsville South High School near Buffalo, N.Y., the 5-10 guard was responsible for a remarkable 38.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 3.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and 2.7 three-pointers per game this past winter.