After Leron Black left, Brad Underwood went a long time without a true power forward. Aaron Jordan, DaMonte Williams and Jacob Grandison all performed admirably at the four spot, but in the perfect world all three would be perimeter players. Brad Underwood and his staff recognized this, picking up bigger and longer players in the 2021 and 2022 class. This trend continued in the 2023 class, where Underwood picked up Amani Hansberry, a 6’8″ 225-pound PF/C from Baltimore, Maryland.
1. The Player
On the offensive end Hansberry can operate from different spots on the floor. He has shown the ability to post up, showcasing his roots as a center. Hansberry has a hook shot he will pull from the midrange both after dribbling and just turning over his left shoulder. He can face the basket and make moves to both hands, as well as shoot a mid-range jumper. Hansberry has shown the ability to make threes enough to play on the perimeter, but he has to continue to improve that aspect of his game.
With these scoring tools he is someone who can make his own offense, but what makes me excited for him at Illinois is his playmaking. Both when he posts and when he faces the basket, he is a strong and confident dribbler, and is able to diagnose defenses to deliver dimes if they leave a teammate open. He can bring the ball up the court as well and makes reads in transition well. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but has great balance and body control, allowing him to play with the best athletes in his class across the country.
On the defensive side, Hansberry fits what Underwood wants from a frontcourt player perfectly. Long, smart, and tough, Hansberry is a dogged rebounder and defender. His athleticism and size mean he won’t be a major rim protector. Despite this, he moves his feet and doesn’t back down from any challenge. His broad frame makes him tough to post, and his smarts and footwork allow him to switch out onto perimeter players. He apparently has massive hands, and that shows on film when he inhales rebounds and loose balls in the midst of bigger, more athletic players.
Hansberry is more than a Swiss Army Knife on the court. He can score for himself, and also play a supporting role. He can guard up and down the roster and turns defense into offense through his ability to push the ball off a rebound.
2. The Resume
Hansberry had a roller coaster of a high school career as far as rankings go. He started as a top 40 player in his debut to the class in March of 2021. By April 12th of the next year, he was unranked. He got back into the rankings but was outside the top 100 until September 2022. This spike was due to Hansberry getting in better shape, and more importantly, putting up major production on the court. He is currently the 43rd ranked recruit in 2023.
Hansberry was a staple for Team Durant in the 2022 EYBL season, starting for a team that made the semifinals of the EYBL Peach Jam tournament. Team Durant had a number of strong players, including the number 11 player in the class, KJ Evans. Hansberry was in a more supporting role considering the riches of talent. Despite this, he made the Peach Jam First Tean after averaging 16.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG and 1.6 APG.
Hansberry has followed up the strong summer with a similarly strong fall. Playing for a Mt. St. Joseph team where he is the only Power Five recruit, Hansberry is their dude. They run offense through him, utilizing his self-creation and his playmaking in the high post and perimeter at the center position. MSJ is ranked number 25 in the nation, among prep school giants like Sunrise Christian and Montverde. They are currently 24-3 on the season, including a massive 56-55 win over number 1 Montverde in Hawaii. In that game Hansberry showcased everything he brings to the court, finishing with a team high 17 points, 8 rebounds and playing every second of the game against Montverde’s stable of Top 100 prospects.
3. The Fit
Hansberry was recruited by Assistant Coach Chester Frazier. Frazier’s Baltimore connection with Hansberry helped lock down his commitment and signature. As mentioned above, Hansberry is a typical DMV frontcourt player, fitting Frazier’s impressive lineup of multi-year prospects. Like Sencire Harris and Jayden Epps, Hansberry will likely be at the school for more than just a year as they are not super trendy NBA profiles. These Top 100 non-one and done types are the lifeblood to all the best programs in the nation.
Don’t get it twisted however, Hansberry fits the ‘new’ Illini model perfectly, and will earn minutes in his first year. With his passing and improving shooting, he can play with just about every big Illinois has on the roster and in the pipeline. He can play power forward next to Dain Dainja, Zacharie Perrin, and 2024 commit Morez Johnson. The Illini can also use him at center next to guys like Ty Rodgers or Luke Goode against smaller teams. Hansberry is joined by guard Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn in the 2023 class.
Photo Credit: igb.amani (Instagram)
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