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Brad Underwood to receive a 1-year extension
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Brad Underwood to receive a 1-year extension

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Illinois men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood is set to receive a one-year extension through the 2026-27 season, athletic director Josh Whitman announced.

The contract, which needs to be approved at a university board of trustees meeting Thursday, is worth $25.6 million for the next six seasons, according to Bret Beherns of WCIU-TV in Champaign. Illinois didn’t announce terms of the deal but said in a release Thursday that the first four years ($16.7 million, according to Beherns) are fully guaranteed, moving Underwood’s total annual compensation into the top 10 nationally.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to be your basketball coach at the University of Illinois,” Underwood tweeted. “Let’s continue working together to keep this program at an elite level and atop the Big Ten Conference.”

Underwood, 57, will be entering his fifth season with the Illini. After finishing below .500 in his first two seasons, Illinois went 21-10 in 2019-20 and 24-7 last season.

The 2020-21 Illini went 16-4 in the Big Ten and won the conference tournament for the first time since 2005, earning their first NCAA Tournament berth in eight years. As a No. 1 seed — its highest since 2005 — Illinois lost to Loyola in the second round.

“It was just four years ago that we brought Coach Underwood here with the vision he and I shared of returning Illinois Basketball to national prominence, and he has delivered,” Whitman said in the release.

The Underwood news was the latest in a busy offseason for the Illini.

All-America guard Ayo Dosunmu entered the NBA draft — he was a second-round pick by the Chicago Bulls — reserve big man Giorgi Bezhanishvili bypassed his senior season to turn pro and guard Adam Miller — who started every game as a freshman — transferred to LSU. Illinois also lost assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman to Kentucky as well as seldom-used big man Jermaine Hamlin, who transferred to Eastern Illinois.

But All-America center Kofi Cockburn, after considering entering the NBA draft and entering the NCAA transfer portal, announced in July that he’ll be back in Champaign for his junior season. Retaining Cockburn — a consensus second-team All-America and first-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore — gives Underwood five of the top eight scorers back.

Senior guards Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams opted to return to Illinois — taking advantage of the NCAA granting all 2020-21 athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Underwood added a pair of transfers in Utah guard Alfonso Plummer and Florida forward Omar Payne.

They’ll team with Cockburn, sophomore point guard Andre Curbelo — the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year — and senior wing Jacob Grandison to give the Illini a veteran core this season.

Three seasons into his original six-year contract, Underwood received a three-year extension in March 2020, just before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Illinois hired Underwood in March 2017 from Oklahoma State, where he led the Cowboys to a 20-13 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance in his only season there. Before that, he coached three seasons at Stephen F. Austin after seven seasons as an assistant at Kansas State and South Carolina.

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