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Illinois Basketball Misses On Top PG Target



Illinois Basketball Misses On Top PG Target
Dec 10, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts during the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lionsat State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball Misses On Top PG Target

It is not an Illinois Basketball offseason without some panic. After a long wait, Illinois Basketball fell out of the driver seat and missed out on their top point guard target. RayJ Dennis finally announced his commitment to the Baylor Bears. Dennis is one of the top point guards in the transfer portal and fit the bill as “the missing piece” for Illinois Basketball. Dennis is a true lead guard and an outstanding facilitator with experience.

This is a painful miss in many ways. Illinois Basketball was linked to a specific Illinois native ever since the offseason started in March. When Dennis entered the transfer portal in April, many expected Illinois to land him. Though Illinois had a winning Wednesday night with the return of their stars, Coleman Hawkins and Terrence Shannon Jr, the news that Dennis was not coming to Illinois was a stinger.

Where does Illinois go now?

Illinois still lacks that primary ball-handler. Sencire Harris, Ty Rodgers and Justin Harmon are all players who can handle the rock well, however it will be very difficult to ask one of these guys to be the lead guard. Distributing the ball is one task, however Dennis showed the ability to get his own AND create plays for teammates. Terrence Shannon Jr and Coleman Hawkins both showed the capability to distribute and handle the ball however both star players showed that they would certainly benefit from a lead guard on the roster.

For Shannon Jr, lacking a point guard closes up his catch and shoot game as he will have to create his own shot more. Coleman Hawkins loses a lot of catch-and-shoot and pick and pop opportunities as well. Both of these players showed that this was their weakness in the NBA draft process, and having RayJ Dennis on this team would have alleviated that. Now, Justin Harmon, Ty Rodgers and Sencire Harris will have to absorb a major amount of ball-handling duty.

Hope for the best.

Illinois is not out yet. I am sure they will do their best to lure a point guard through the transfer portal. However, their options run thin due to the time investment in RayJ Dennis. UC Riverside’s Zyon Pullin released a top 5 that did NOT include Illinois. St Louis’s Yuri Collins announced that he will stay in the draft, and Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves is an unlikely option according to our sources.

Illinois will have to hope that Justin Harmon is ready to run some point guard. Additionally, the combination of Ty Rodgers and Sencire Harris on the ball will have to show its face again. Both Sophomore will need to make a big leap so that the return of Hawkins and Shannon Jr is worthwhile. Illinois may also have to play redshirt-freshman Niccolò Moretti, however he just does not look physically ready to compete in the Big Ten.

Regardless, I think most Illinois fans would have taken a 2/3 scenario that has played out. However, a lead guard that can tie it all together would have made this team so much more dangerous. That thought will leave Illinois fans wanting more.

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.