Connect with us


Illinois Basketball’s Most Overlooked Piece



Illinois Basketball's Most Overlooked Piece
Dec 29, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Dain Dainja (42) drives ball past Bethune-Cookman Wildcats center Dylan Robertson (22) during the first half at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball’s Most Overlooked Piece

Illinois Basketball’s season is right around the corner. Hopes are high as the Illini hope to shake off the “bad vibes” that plagued them throughout the 2022-2023 season. Illinois has gone from one of the youngest teams in the country to one of the oldest. Though they certainly have some kinks that they will need to iron out, there is plenty of excitement with the depth and amount of new pieces that Brad Underwood has at his disposal. As the season starts, many fans are focused on a few items. Will Ty Rodgers be able to handle point guard duties? CanTerrence Shannon make another jump in his game? Will the team shoot better from 3?

All legitimate questions to ask in order for Illinois Basketball to reach its true potential. However, there is one player that I think fans are forgetting that can really lift this team.

Dain Dainja

Dain Dainja is technically a senior in college. However, this will be his second year playing legitimate minutes at the college level. Dain was impressive in spurts last season. His ability to score in the paint and play effective drop-cover defense helped stabilize a young team that liked to throw up perimeter shots. Per 40 minutes, Dain Dainja averaged 18.6 points and 10.8 rebounds. For reference, Kofi Cockburn averaged 19.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game (per 40 minutes) as a Freshman. I do not expect Dain to become the college superstar that Kofi Cockburn became in his sophomore and junior years, however, it shows that Dain has the capability.

Dainja may or may not start on this team to start the season off, however, he again can be a stabilizing force on a team that is projected to struggle from the three-point line. I also think that Dain can provide easy baskets and take the load off of Ty Rodgers needing to create in the half-court. Dain has continued to drop weight and alter his body. He ran a mile in 5 minutes and 20 seconds per his media day interview.

Other important factors.

There are plenty of other “x-factors” for this team to have success. One of them is the shooting percentages of Luke Goode and Marcus Domask. Another is the perimeter percentages of Ty Rodgers and Sencire Harris. Both can make an impact on the floor with their motor, however, are limited by their lack of a perimeter game and effective free-throw shooting.

Regardless, Dain Dainja will be a key piece as the season goes on. He is overlooked now, but I think he will eventually be at the forefront of the scouting report as the season progresses.

Thank you for reading Armchair Illini. For more Illinois Athletics and Big Ten content from Armchair Illini, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email our Publisher at Please use our Seatgeek code for 20$ off your purchase on ARMCHAIRILLINOIS. It is because of your support that we have become one of the fastest-growing Illinois media outlets around!

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.