Illini Basketball Monitoring Players in Metro Market COVID-19 Hotspots

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The scariest current thought for Illinois head coach Brad Underwood continues to be he knows he’s got several players scattered in the large-populated coronavirus hotspots.

Whether it is Chicago where Ayo Dosunmu is under a stay-at-home mandate or Kofi Cockburn isolated in New York, which has the second-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 according to the latest data by the Center for Disease Control, or Trent Frazier in Palm Beach County, Florida, which reportedly has 514 coronavirus cases, Underwood is constantly worried about the health and safety of his players.

Cockburn, who received Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors by both the league’s coaches & media earlier this month, originally moved from Jamaica to live with his mother in Queens, New York in 2014 and currently resides in currently the largest city metropolitan hotspot for the COVID-19 epidemic.

Underwood did say Friday that foreign players Giorgi Bezhanishvili, originally from the nation of Georgia and whose mother now lives in Vienna, Austria, is still in his apartment in Champaign-Urbana. For the first time since the abrupt end of the 2019-20 season, Bezhanishvili spoke to media shortly after Underwood’s teleconference time and said he does Zoom video chats with his family every day.

“I want to be with my family.” Bezhanishvili said Tuesday. “That’s a normal thing, I think. In a tough time like this, everybody is with their families. It’s way easier to go through anything when you’re with (people), when you’re together, obviously family, but I can’t. I’ve got to have the right approach to this and be positive about it. I can’t change anything at the moment."

Belgiun-born freshman forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk was unable to travel home during this world health crisis and is staying with friends in Bloomington.

“We got a couple guys in pretty tight quarantine with Kofi being in New York City and Trent being down in South Florida so those guys aren’t getting out much,” Underwood said.

Frazier came to Illinois nearly four years ago from Wellington, Fla., which has already reported 11 cases as of March 28 according to the Florida Department of Health.

Underwood did confirm Tuesday that he’s not currently aware of any health scares for any person associated with the Illini program or players needing to be tested for the virus. However, it remains a priority that he relay information from the national, state and local medical and health experts to his players currently scattered all across the country. Underwood says he conducts full staff video conferencing meetings with coaches, players, managers and staff members every Monday night and Thursday night.

“The things we tell ou guys in our Zoom meetings is to wash your hands and staying in,” Underwood said. “We’ve been very fortunate so far in that way but as this thing continues to grow, it’s scary. We want all of those guys to continue to be safe.” 

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

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