Last year, the Illini basketball team featured a whopping 7 newcomers, with 6 freshmen and 1 senior transfer (Sam Maniscalco). The Illini lost two guys at the end of the season with Sammy Ice graduating and Meyers Leonard getting drafted #12 in the NBA. Crandall Head also skipped town in the middle of the season, leaving a total of 3 open schollies for the coming season.
Despite some expected decommitting and shuffling after John Groce replaced ex-head coach Bruce Weber, Groce managed to bring in 3 new players this year: 2 transfers (Rayvonte Rice and Sam McLaurin), and 1 freshman (Mike LaTulip).
Since LaTulip is a preferred walk-on, he won’t be taking up one of those available schollies, which means there is still 1 open one out there. But at this point it looks like that won’t be filled before the season begins in just a couple of weeks.
Let’s get started meeting the 3 new guys!
Sam McLaurin – The Basics
Previous School: Coastal Carolina
Jersey #: 0
He is the guy with the tweet heard round the world back in May when he tweeted: ” “F*** it, I’m going to Illinois. #Illinination.” It’s not clear if he informed the staff of his decision prior to the tweet, but either way I’m in love with his passion for the team.
Following closely in the footsteps of last year’s fifth-year senior also named Sam, McClaurin will also be sporting 0 on his jersey. That’s where the similarities end, because McLaurin is a forward who will be assisting in filling the void left by Leonard. The 6-8, 230-pound forward started all 31 games for the Chanticleers last season, averaging 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 65.2 percent from the field.
McLaurin scored in double figures in 18 games and recorded five double-doubles last year. In his career at Coastal Carolina, he totaled 674 points and shot nearly 62 percent. He also owns the Coastal Carolina record for career blocked shots with 155, and ranks seventh on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 647 boards.
A native of Havana, Fla., McLaurin is a two-time Big South All-Academic selection and earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2012 as well.
His birthday is November 8, and he will turn 24 years old. As a mature statesman, I hope he can bring in the kind of experience and leadership that Maniscalco was supposed to bring last year, though it never really happened. We’ll know more as practice continues, but I would think McLaurin will get a starting job early on in the season.
Check out some highlights of his Coastal Carolina work below.