Ayo Dosunumu is almost certainly not coming back next year, and most Illinois Fighting Illini fans realize that. Don’t cry because it will soon be over, smile that it happened. Illini supporters also need to think about what they will have in 2021/22, a further seasoned and developed Andre Curbelo, taking on a larger role.
The perfect example of “Ewing Theory,” Illinois went 3-0, including their biggest win of the regular season, without Ayo. It was over this stretch that Curbelo truly asserted himself, and established the bonafides that got him the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Award. It also solidified Illinois’ place as a #1 seed this season.
Curbelo, who was also named to the all-freshman team, has scored in double figures in each of the last five games, averaging 15.0 points (63) and 6.8 rebounds (34) while shooting 58% (29-50).
The next great floor general in the making at U of I, he ranked third in the Big Ten in assists during conference play (4.5 apg). His 4.2 assists per game on the season ranks fifth on the school’s all-time freshman assists list.
The stats don’t truly convey just how fun he truly is to watch.
One member of my extended family, an Illini alum said he plays “like his coaches were the And1 Mixtape tour.”
I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like a major compliment.
“He doesn’t fear the moment- he’s an alpha,” said Illini coach Brad Underwood. “His personality thrives in those situations, he’s been that guy, his whole career. He doesn’t fear it. The FIBA stuff has been huge for that progress.”
The Puerto Rican saw a lot of playing time with his national team, and that has been massive in regards to his rapid development. Underwood explained how specifically Curbelo has grown the most.
From the basketball side, it’s mostly been on the defensive side,” Underwood continued. “He’s always been a great rebounder. He’s so instinctive, and I thnk it’s taking that instinct and applying it to a structure, to a system. He’s really grown from a maturity standpoint in understanding the game in our system.”
Andre Curbelo discussed his own individual mentality of never being complacent, and taking that into what’s head now this March.
“I like challenges- that’s why I came here,” he said. “It’s why I left Puerto Rico. I wanted a better challenge, to continue to improve; I’m all in for the challenge.
“You never know what’s going to happen in the Big Ten Tournament, March Madness, but I embrace it, the big boy games, playing with the big boys. I love big stages, big teams, I always try to bring my A game.”
Andre Curbelo and Illinois begins their Big Ten Tournament tomorrow night, as the #2 seed, versus #7 seed Rutgers in the quarterfinal round.
Selection Sunday is just three days away now and with that in mind, be sure to click on BetQL for picks, moneylines, over/unders, and more, for every game, every day.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Leave a Reply