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Illinois Basketball Freshmen Can Make an Impact



Illinois Basketball Freshmen Can Make an Impact
Feb 1, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Amani Hansberry (35) makes a layup past Ohio State Buckeyes guard Evan Mahaffey (12) during the first half of the NCAA men’s basketball game at Value City Arena.

Illinois Basketball Freshmen Can Make an Impact

Illinois Basketball has had some struggles recently. Despite a ten-win conference record so far, Illinois fans are really feeling the panic and the burnout from some signs that point to another fumble in March. Brad Underwood and his staff have some major adjustments that need to be made in a very short period of time, and the outlook appears bleak. In the past month, Illinois basketball has had clear defensive struggles and is currently somewhere in the 100’s in defensive efficiency.

Despite outstanding offense, the defense has kept inferior opponents hanging around which ultimately leads to offensive problems down the stretch. Brad Underwood needs to accept the fact that the drop coverage is not working. They need more bite on the ball and an injection of physicality. Underwood needs to turn to their two freshmen as the season comes to a close.

Amani Hansberry

Amani Hansberry started the season rather well. Hansberry showed that his motor and rebounding prowess could benefit the Illinois basketball team down the line. However, Hansberry missed over a month with a back injury. Hansberry has shown some flashes throughout his return. He had an and-one against Ohio State on the road and played solid defense against Penn State. If he can keep the game simple, he provides a much more mobile option at the 5 than Dain Dainja.

Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn

Dravyn Gibbs-Lawhorn should have gotten more time at the beginning of the year. However, Gibbs-Lawhorn always looks to score the ball when he gets in. He took some poor shots during his limited time which made the leash on him super tight. Despite this, Gibbs-Lawhorn provides a much more athletic and explosive option than the slow-footed Justin Harmon. If Underwood was able to live with some development, Gibbs-Lawhorn may have been in a real position to help Illinois.

Against Penn State, DGL showed a motor and explosiveness that I think should be used moving forward. He seems to care a lot and has so much more defensive agility than Justin Harmon. If Dravyn can avoid turnovers and poor shot selection, he will be a weapon come March Madness.

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Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.