VIDEO: Illini Now/SI Morning Update With Matthew Stevens

Matthew Stevens

In this edition of the Illini Now/Sports Illustrated 'Morning Update' video, publisher Matthew Stevens gives you a look at the top stories involving Illinois athletics.

Here is the news topic Stevens hits on for Fighting Illini fans:

1. 2020 7-Foot Center Brandon Lieb Commits To Illini: Stevens details how Brandon Lieb certainly didn't need a lot of time to make a decision once he started to receive attention for his home state school.

The 7-foot center from Deerfield (Ill.) High School has announced his verbal commitment to the Illini less than 24 hours after the Illini coaching staff conducted a Zoom video conference with him and less than a week after Illinois assistant Ronald 'Chin' Coleman officially sent out the scholarship offer. 

Before the COVID-19 epidemic shut down all high school basketball in the state of Illinois, Lieb averaged 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his senior year at Deerfield.

Lieb made his dream of playing at Illinois come true Wednesday evening and announced it to the world Thursday morning in a social media post.

“With the success they’ve had over the past two years, I think in-state kids are going to be drawn to that program, that staff and that group of players,” Lieb said in an exclusive Zoom video interview with Illini Now/Sports Illustrated Thursday. “There’s something to be said for playing for the school in your state.”

2. Illini QB Brandon Peters Impressing Staff In Summer Workouts: Stevens details how Illinois strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez couldn't stop raving about the Illini quarterback Thursday in a Zoom video conference with local media. Peters, who worked with a private trainer in Detroit, has come back to the University of Illinois campus this summer with a retooled body and ready showcase his athleticism. 

In a 2020 campaign, which is what everybody around the Illini program has pointed to as the much-needed breakout season for Lovie Smith’s tenure in Champaign-Urbana, Peters has arrived back on campus to prove he can make some noise with his legs and his physicality just as much as with his arm in the Illini pass game.

“Whatever it was that motivated him to continue to do some work (during the spring stay-at-home orders via the coronavirus pandemic), I couldn’t be happier with that,” Hernandez said. “Looking at him right now, his body looks incredible. He’s definitely maintained and definitely put on some lean muscle mass. He’s got some more definition on him. He definitely looks like he’s been in the weight room.”

3. Illini Recruiting Hot Board: Top DE Targets to Watch For Illinois’ 2021 Class: Stevens details how Illinois needed to find pass-rushing talent without having to rely on the graduate transfer market and the Illini staff believe that guy for them is three-star defensive lineman Sedarius McConnell from Atlanta, who committed to Illinois in late May.

The key for Illinois might be to find one more developing prospect to play on Lovie Smith’s defensive front and so Illini fans shouldn’t expect big-name prospects to be on their radar unless they find them in the transfer market.


Olympic Sports