Looks Like University Of Illinois - Mark Alstork
Resolved: when battling other high-major schools for a player named Mark, Brad Underwood will always win. It's science. He won for Mark Smith and now he won for Mark Alstork. Therefore, every player named Mark will always pick Illinois. Note: we haven't offered anyone named Mark in the 2018, 2019, or 2020 classes. Although I'm not sure why, given the science.
Here's the biggest thing about Alstork: we need numbers. We need warm bodies. I think he's much more than a warm body, which we'll get to in a bit, but we have to start there. The biggest thing we need right now: numbers. And this adds to our numbers.
Let's go through the reasons for that. Here's our journey with scholarship numbers.
- In November we sign Javon Pickett, DaMonte Williams, Trent Frazier, and Jeremiah Tilmon. With seven returnees and four incoming freshmen, that put our scholarship number at 11, meaning we still had two available for the spring.
- After Groce is fired and Underwood is hired, both Tilmon and Pickett decommit. That takes us down to 9 scholarship players.
- We add Mark Smith to get to 10. But DJ Williams announces he's going to transfer, so we're back a 9.
- One of those 9, incoming freshman DaMonte Williams, had ACL surgery in January. Depending on the timeframe of his rehab, he almost certainly won't be ready by the start of practice in September and possibly won't be ready by the first game in early November.
This takes us into the season with eight players in the rotation. And with rumors swirling that there might be one more transfer, we would be facing the season with seven players. Seven scholarship players makes a rotation almost impossible. At the first sign of foul trouble, exhaustion, or gasp injury, you're leaning heavily on walkons.
I'm not going to edit. I wrote the "rumors" thing in the paragraph above because of the JCL rumors, and those were just confirmed 13 seconds ago, so yes, Mark Alstork was a massive, massive pickup. Without Alstork we were at 8 scholarship players, 7 if DaMonte is on the bench for a while with the ACL rehab. With him, we're at 9 (8). That's just massive.
Not sure I've ever done this before - pivot a post on news that breaks while I'm writing it. Let's just keep going.
With JCL gone and DaMonte rehabbing, here's my minutes breakdown had Alstork picked LSU:
And here's my minutes breakdown with Alstork added to the roster:
This transfer takes so much pressure off of other players. It's an immediate patch over the JCL hole. It's still a desperate situation - without any additional trasnfers (there are still a few out there), walkons are going to play some mintues, y'all - but Alstork filled a huge gap.
Just on the minutes breakdown above, I took 7 minutes away from Frazier, 5 minutes from Lucas, 2 minutes from Smith, and 12 minutes from Jordan. I'm not sure any of those four were ready for those kind of minutes (to be honest, they're probably not ready for this new number of minutes either), but it takes a lot of the pressure off. If DaMonte can provide something, even if it's later in the season, that takes some of the pressure off as well.
Is that a Tournament team? I don't think so. If everything goes right and we stay injury-free it can be a bubble team, but I think the JCL transfer moved us from bubble-in to bubble-out. We'd need Smith and Frazier to be immediate contributors (like Big Ten starter-ready), and that's very rare for freshman guards.
Still, with Alstork added, this could be fun. It's a freebie season anyway with Underwood overhauling the roster and installing his systems. And a guy who averaged 19 points per game at Wright State last year might make for a fun one-year fix.
So I'm giving Alstork 3.5 Tom Cruises. He's just about the best bandaid we've ever recruited, and it gives us a chance to be competitive in Underwood's first season. It might all fall apart and become a footnote, but he might also write his name in Illini history - "remember that year where we landed Alstork and he helped us sneak into the Tournament in Underwood's first season?"
Because of that, I am giving Mark Alstork three and one half Tom Cruises. Now go get buckets.