Brad Underwood met with reporters Tuesday at B1G Media Days, just a little under a month from the start of the 2023-24 season.

The Illini have an intriguing team this season, one built on size with some solid returning veterans in Terrence Shannon, Ty Rodgers and Coleman Hawkins.

And Underwood is hoping that experience will turn into something great this season. While speaking with reporters he specifically mentioned Hawkins and called him “one of the elite defenders in college basketball.”


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“We know those guys are really good,” Underwood said. “Coleman Hawkins I think is one of the elite defenders in college basketball. He can positionally guard one through five.”

Hawkins is entering his 4th season in Champaign and has done nothing but improve with each passing year. The 6-10 PF/C saw time at the 4 and the 5 last season and was dangerous on the boards, posting 39 total blocks last season alongside some of the better offensive rebounding numbers in the conference.

He’ll be a huge part of whether or not the Illini take a leap this season following a disappointing first-round exit against Arkansas last year.

Illinois tips off its 2023 season on November 6 against Eastern Illinois.