Illini 2020 PF Target Alex Tchikou Selects Alabama

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois basketball will not likely have a scholarship limit problem for the 2020-21 season.

Alex Tchikou, a 6-foot-11 four-star power forward who reclassified ahead to the 2020 recruiting class, announced his verbal commitment to Alabama Sunday afternoon on Twitter. The French native, who played last season at Dream City Christian School in Glendale, Ariz., selected the Crimson Tide over the only eight programs, which included Illinois, on his final list.

If Tchikou, whose last name is pronounced chi-koo, had selected the Illini then it would’ve certainly meant Illinois head coach Brad Underwood was confident in least one of the ongoing draft decisions of Ayo Dosunmu or Kofi Cockburn.

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Illinois can still welcome back Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn back for the 2020-21 season without having a scholarship limit issue.

Now, it appears Tchikou’s verbal pledge creates similar questions surrounding Alabama head coach Nate Oats’ program as they were at the NCAA limit of 13 scholarship players before today’s announcement. Alabama fans might now have a better understanding of the upcoming draft decision of wing John Petty. All draft-eligible prospects have until the NCAA’s deadline of Aug. 3 to stay in or return to their college program for another season. Illini Now/Sports Illustrated has previously reported that both Dosunmu and Cockburn continue to wait on word for a possible prospects draft combine date to be announced before the NCAA’s deadline.

Cockburn is back in Champaign-Urbana for COVID-19 safety reasons but has yet to check in for voluntary on-campus workouts. Dosunmu continues to work privately with his father in Chicago as he continues to evaluate his draft options.

By reclassifying up a year to the 2020 recruiting class, Tchikou has essentially guaranteed he’ll be spending at least two years at Alabama unless he wants to spend his second year beyond high school in the NBA’s G-League because currently the NBA holds 19-year-old age limit to be a draft-eligible prospect.

In terms of the power forward position for the Illini’s 2020-21 season, Giorgi Bezhanishvili currently holds down the spot in the Illini system and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk is coming off a severe foot injury that kept him out of most of the previous 2019-20 campaign. Jacob Grandison, a 6-foot-6 wing player who transferred from Holy Cross, could also see some minutes at that ‘4’ spot if the Illini wanted to go with a smaller overall unit.

Alabama now has the potential for a talented but crowded frontcourt as the Crimson Tide have already acquired the services of graduat transfer Jordan Bruner from Yale and 2020 forward Keon Ambrose-Hylton from Canada for the upcoming season.