The Fighting Illini's new basketball coach has a simple task ahead - win recruiting in his own state.


Illinois this week introduced Brad Underwood as its new men's basketball coach. The 53-year-old coached Oklahoma State to the NCAA in his only season there after leading Stephen F. Austin to the tournament each of his three seasons in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Underwood is tasked with rebuilding a program that made the NCAA title game in 2005 - losing to a North Carolina team whose records are now tainted by a decades-long grading scandal - but has been back to the NCAA just five times since and none since 2012-2013.

Underwood will come a long way toward the goal of challenging for Big 10 and national titles again if he can just convince the state's top players from leaving the area.

Several websites scoured the rosters of this year's NCAA teams and found 48 players from Illinois high schools on those rosters. True, several of those were on Northwestern, but last year there were no Illinois schools in the tourney and 51 players from Illinois playing in it for non-Illinois institutions.

In fact, eight of the nine past NCAA champions featured a key player on the roster from just the Chicagoland area. Only the 2011 winner, UConn, didn't have an Illinois player.

  • 2016 - Jalen Brunson (Villanova/Stevenson)
  • 2015 - Jalil Okafor (Duke/Whitney Young)
  • 2014 - Ryan Boatright (UConn/East Aurora)
  • 2013 - Wayne Blackshear (Louisville/Morgan Park)
  • 2012 - Anthony Davis (Kentucky/Perspectives/MSA)
  • 2010 - Jon Scheyer (Duke/Glenbrook North)
  • 2009 - Bobby Frasor (North Carolina/Brother Rice)
  • 2008 - Sherron Collins (Kansas, Crane)

In that stretch, two former NIC-10 players made it to NCAA Final Fours and Illinois didn't get either. Freeport's Willie Veasley was a starter on the 2010 Butler team that lost to Duke by two points, and Auburn's Fred VanVleet was a key reserve on the Wichita State team that made the Final Four and lost to eventual champion Louisville in the semifinals by just four points.

So if recent history holds true to form, you might want to look at West Virginia and Wisconsin as possible winners. Wisconsin features Ethan Happ from Rockridge and West Virginia's leading scorer, Jevon Carter, is from Proviso East.

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