CHAMPAIGN – Illinois had some positive results in a productive “secret” fight against Kansas before the season, but the biggest news was the loss of Luke Goode as a sophomore.
A hustle play that saw Goode fall on an opponent’s foot caused an injury that required surgery. That means the sophomore, lined up for a big surge in minutes, will start the season on the sidelines when the Illini take on Quincy in an exhibition game Friday at 7 p.m. at State Farm Center.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said coach Brad Underwood. “Luke is a great player and a great marksman and a great leader. So we’ll see what that process looks like as he goes through his surgery and recovery and how quickly he can come back.”
The Illini will have their first game action testing non-Goode versus Quincy lineups. The game will be streamed and radio broadcast on Big Ten plus
The plan was to start Goode, but that’s obviously going to change no matter how long he’s out. Underwood said he doesn’t want to speculate on a timeline that will be set after Goode has surgery on his broken foot.
Ty Rodgers, a Jordan Brand All-American and four-star recruit, is one of the players who will make a timely upswing without Goode. Coleman Hawkins has played a lot of stretch fives but he will play more on the wing now, with Dain Dainja also playing in the centre.
“Ty excelled in our practices,” Underwood said. “He was a very big part of what we did. He was the guy that made us bounce almost every practice, to be perfectly honest. He’s a guy who has a nose for the ball, and yet his versatility…you’ll see Ty play the spot, you might see him play the power forward spot, everywhere in between. Its versatility is so important to us.
Sencire Harris is another freshman guard who stands at 6-foot-4 in length. Freshman point guards Skyy Clark and Jayden Epps will also have opportunities to play lead guard minutes.
“Sencire has proven to be an excellent defender on the ball and is a guy who really wreaks havoc on defense,” Underwood said. “So yes, we have to go up.”
Illinois had plenty of winging with transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer with Goode, Rodgers and RJ Melendez. That means there are bodies that can fill that void with Goode, but Illinois will have slimmer lineup options until he returns.
“Probably some other lineups,” Underwood said. “We played a lot on the five against Coleman. It probably gets him on the four with Dain, it can move mate. It may mean newcomers get more minutes. You know it’s a position, we have a couple of bodies. But again, Luke is invaluable.”
When the Illini take on the Hawks in their first game in front of a crowd this season, it will be the first competitive step in tinkering with a lineup that has already undergone a major change. Last season, Illinois suffered multiple injuries and still won a Big Ten title. Similarly, the team will have to respond to Goode’s injury.
“We have to make up for that,” Underwood said. “Boys have to grow into these roles, so we’ll see.”
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