URBANA, Ill. (BVM) — It is an undeniable fact that the University of Illinois head men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood has made a positive impact. Underwood was hired to be head coach for the Illini in March 2017, initially starting off with a rough two seasons with his new basketball team. Though, within those challenging seasons, he took his time in crafting and cultivating his teams’ skills and working on their lacking defensive skills.
Slowly but surely Underwood turned the Illini basketball team around during the 2019-20 season, in which he successfully recruited star players Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Due to the efforts of Underwood and his patience with training, Dosunmu, Cockburn and the rest of their team worked hard during the 2019-20 conference schedule and was able to qualify to play in the NCAA Tournament; this was the first time in eight years where Illinois made it to the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was canceled. Though they were not able to play, Illinois won the Big Ten Conference with a 24-7 conference record, capturing the Big Ten title for the first time in over 15 years.
The Illini basketball team was not the only time Underwood showed his talent; before he accepted his job at Illinois, he worked for Oklahoma State University as a head coach for the Cowboys during the 2016-17 season. In that one season alone, the Cowboys went from not being able to win in their own conference to being fifth in the Big 12 with a 9-9 conference record, during a time when the Big 12 was rated the top conference in the nation. Before his one season at Oklahoma State, he also worked at Stephen F. Austin where his team won first in conference all three seasons he spent there.
Brad Underwood has proven through his players discipline and through his dedication to his job that he puts his all into his work. Looking at Illinois’ most recent game, Underwood’s coaching shows that he is big on defense and creates a strong unit with Cockburn at the center. With great defense, the biggest surprises won’t penetrate the team’s skills. For example, in the recent game against the Michigan Wolverines, Underwood was informed that the Wolverines’ star player wouldn’t be playing which startled everyone because of the amount of time and thought he put into the plays against the Wolverines in particular. But, due to the amount of effort Illinois put into their defense, they were able to win that tough game 68-53. Underwood shows that he is and will continue to be the talent behind Illini.