Illini fans were thrilled last spring when Illinois received a 2021 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball engagement from Brandin Podziemski, and rightly so. Knowing that Illini legend Ayo Dosunmu was at the gate and in the NBA, it was essential for Underwood and Co to solidify the wing’s position for the future. The Illini get a good one in Podziemski, able to knock defenders out of dribbling while still being a spot up shooter and a long athletic defender. That’s exactly what Illinois needs, surrounding lead creator Andre Curbelo and towering indoor presences Kofi Cockburn and Omar Payne with solid shooting and playmaking.
Considering what the Illini have lost to Dosunmu and the wealth of promising new talent, it may be a committee approach to replace Dosunmu’s production, but the Illini have a strong piece both now and in the future with Podziemski as he grows up in college game.
What Illinois gets
Podziemski comes to Illinois with a highly decorated high school resume, winning the Wisconsin Mr. Basketball award last spring while becoming the first player in Wisconsin basketball history to reach 2,000 career points in just 3 years. . The Muskego, Wis. Native was the 23rd best player in the Midwest and 29th best shooting goaltender in this year’s class according to ESPN. He finished a stellar senior season averaging 35 points, over 10 rebounds, over 4 steals, nearly 6 assists and over one block per game.
He clearly has the potential to impact the game in a number of ways as he grows and develops in Illinois, but his shooting and attacking arsenal as a complementary scorer should emerge quickly for the Illinois. Fortunately, as a freshman, he won’t be tasked with taking on too heavy a role. Don’t expect him to be satisfied as a spinning player, though. He announced his intentions this spring, seeing the losses of Miller and Dosunmu as “an opportunity to come in and start right away.” If he walks in and contributes as his cap suggests, he could fight for minutes in a very full roster.
What to expect
Like many freshmen, Podziemski will likely have their ups and downs depending on the night and Illinois. Adjusting to the speed and style of play of the Big Ten is no easy task for any freshman. The strength, speed and ability of everyone he plays against will be very new from high school. As such, Illini fans should be patient with the talented freshman.
Last season, Adam Miller arrived with greater hype in the high school ranks and saw his fair share of struggles earning playing time and making consistent contributions, but by the end of the season he became a significantly better defender and a consistent scorer under tutelage. of Dosunmu and other Illinois veterans. I expect a somewhat similar progression for Podziemski (ideally without a transfer), who may take time to become more capable as a dribble scorer in a tough Big Ten and become a more polished defender with coaching and time. . However, players of his ilk are exactly the type Underwood loves and end up thriving in his space and pace, offensive pick and roll.
There is much to be excited about Podziemski and the rest of this Illini list. Illinois brings a lot of shooting and versatile athleticism to fit in perfectly with a strong returning core. While the preseason predictions for this Illini team season haven’t reached the feverish heights of last year, this team brings a lot of individual and collective talent that should keep Illinois at the top of the landscape. college basketball for a third consecutive year.