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Illinois Basketball’s Perfect Starting Lineup



Illinois Basketball's Perfect Starting Lineup
Jan 16, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Ty Rodgers (20) drives to the basket against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the second half at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Basketball’s Perfect Starting Lineup

Illinois Basketball’s summer started off with some eventful news. They successfully returned their two stars, Terrence Shannon Jr and Coleman Hawkins. Despite the good news that vaults them to the upper half of the conference, Illinois failed to address their most glaring need. RayJ Dennis was a big miss in a lot of ways. Obviously, missing on the best true point guard in the transfer portal hurts. Additionally, Brad Underwood and his staff put a lot of their eggs in that basket. Eggs involving time and losing out on other prospects.

Despite the miss, Illinois Basketball seems to have their final roster set. There has been a lot of talk about Ty Rodgers running the point guard position, however I wanted to examine the options at the rest of the starting lineup around him.

The Locks

There is no doubt that Terrence Shannon Jr and Coleman Hawkins will be playing a lot of minutes. Their presence in the starting lineup immediately raises the floor of this team. Both Shannon Jr and Hawkins will have to prove that they can take another leap in production. Both will have to replace the scoring firepower Matthew Mayer provided and will have to assert themselves more at the beginning of games. Coleman in particular has to show that he can be a stable catch-and-shoot option on a consistent basis and that he is decisive on the floor.

Shannon Jr may have benefitted from a true point guard the most. He honestly thrived more when he was off the ball and not called on to create offense. When Terrence was used as an off-ball slashing or spot up threat, he was elite and one of the league’s best players. Ty Rodgers will very likely be called on to play point guard. Rodgers will have to develop an ability to make defenders pay if they go under screens. He will also have to tighten up his handle, given how pesky Big Ten guards have proven to be.

Which shooter goes where?

For Ty Rodgers and the two superstars on the team to have the most success, they will need to be surrounded by shooting. Clear lanes to the basket are necessary to alleviate Rodgers and to allow him to have driving lanes to the basket. Having space also allows Terrence Shannon to get downhill into the basket and allows Coleman Hawkins to display his all-around game. The first spot outside of the aforementioned three should go to Marcus Domask.

Domask shot around 35 percent as a senior at Southern Illinois. Though this number has to go up, one can argue that he was not surrounded by the best talent to create open looks. Domask should benefit the most from drive-and-kicks by Rodgers and Shannon. Luke Goode may be a better overall shooter than Domask, however I think that given Domask’s ability to make plays and facilitate (averaged almost 4 assists the past two years) will be vital to help alleviate Ty at the point

 Easy Basket? Or more shooting?

The last spot is the one that gave me the most grief. Though shooting will be imperative, I bounced the idea of having Coleman Hawkins at the five. This would allow for a player like Luke Goode or Quincy Guerrier to be that additional shooter. Guerrier, Goode and Domask are all above-average rebounders and Coleman Hawkins certainly proved he can play the center position at times. However, I think the final starting spot should go to Dain Dainja.

After Dainja entered the starting lineup, Illinois drastically improved on the defensive end. Dainja’s ability to set good picks and play efficient drop coverage defense helped stabilize a rocky start to the season. Additionally, I think that when the night comes that Illinois struggles from the perimeter, Dainja would be the best option to give Illinois an easy basket down low. Though he may not stretch the floor, his post-play can help the Illini on offense. He also has the length and physicality to help Illinois on the defensive end.

The lineup of Rodgers-Shannon Jr-Domask-Hawkins-Dainja will benefit from playing through their mistakes. It will be exciting to see what Brad Underwood decides to roll out.

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.