CHAMPAIGN — Brad Underwood was standing on the baseline on Christmas Day throughout Illinois males’s basketball’s remaining apply forward of its post-holiday showdown with Indiana.
An ideal vantage level to be dazzled — once more — by Andre Curbelo.
The Illini had been engaged on their ball display screen offense towards the arduous hedges they anticipated the following day from the Hoosiers.
A hedge, after all, being a defensive maneuver the place the defender guarding the screens exhibits himself rapidly to the offensive participant coming off the display screen. A tough hedge is just a extra aggressive model.
Curbelo managed the arduous hedge with a slick ball dealing with transfer with around-the-back and a between-the-legs dribble to free himself. Then the Illinois freshman guard delivered a behind-the-back go to Kofi Cockburn for a layup.
“I’m standing there subsequent to Trent Frazier, and Trent goes, ‘Coach, you simply can’t coach that,’” Underwood stated. “You’re proper. You don’t. He’s bought a imaginative and prescient. He’s bought an understanding. He’s bought a novel reward that means.”
Underwood has utilized Curbelo as his first guard off the bench all season. The 6-foot-1, 175-point guard strikes and performs with a special rhythm.
He’s been the prompt the bench Illinois has wanted on a number of events.
Like throughout Saturday’s 69-60 win towards Indiana at State Farm Middle.
Illinois’ first eight possessions towards the Hoosiers featured six missed photographs and two turnovers earlier than Curbelo subbed into the sport on the 15 minute, 39 second mark and the Illini trailing. Not fairly three minutes later, the sport was tied at 9-9 with a made jumper from Curbelo sandwiched between two assists for the Puerto Rican level guard on layups by Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
“I inform him, ‘Play your recreation,’” Dosunmu stated. “He does an ideal job of that. He goes on the market and competes and has an ideal really feel for the sport and an ideal IQ.”
A part of Curbelo’s recreation — and one which has been key for Illinois — is his ball dealing with. He was instrumental in negating the effectiveness of Penn State’s press in what became a double-digit win in State School, Pa., final week, and he’s proven a capability to be a one-man quick break within the Illini’s transition offense.
Curbelo’s ball dealing with is fine-tuned earlier than each recreation. He splits off throughout one a part of Illinois’ pregame warmup to focus solely on ball dealing with drills.
All with a tennis ball that he has on the proverbial string.
“It’s one of many coolest issues ever,” Underwood stated.
Curbelo makes use of that deal with as a creator. He ranks second on the crew with 4.Four assists per recreation — behind solely Dosunmu’s 5.2 apg — however is the Huge Ten chief in convention play solely at 6.eight apg.
“His capacity to drive the ball and get by a defender and simply make a play — create performs — and his capacity to go the ball is out of this world,” Cockburn stated. “I’ve by no means seen something prefer it. He simply is available in and provides us a complete completely different view of the sport.”
Aided by the actual fact he had zero fouls, Curbelo performed a season-high 30 minutes in Saturday’s win towards Indiana. He completed with 5 factors, six rebounds, 5 assists and three steals. It was the final of these — and his defensive play total — that stored Curbelo on the court docket for three-fourths of the sport.
“One of many issues that has been very difficult for younger guys is communication on the defensive facet,” Underwood stated. “Now he’s beginning to echo calls and perceive. It’s the explanation I left him on the market a very long time (Saturday) within the second half was he was making defensive calls of their performs coming and barking at guys what was coming. That’s once you’re actually dialed into the scouting report. That’s plenty of maturity on his half to try this.”
Scott Richey is a reporter masking faculty basketball at The Information-Gazette. His electronic mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll observe him on Twitter (@srrichey).
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