Illini land Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer


Illini land Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — The Illini returned to the transfer portal and landed another long, versatile wing.

Matthew Mayer announced Friday that he is moving to Illinois after spending the last four years at Baylor. Mayer entered the NBA draft with an option to retain his college eligibility and also entered the transfer portal just before the May 1 deadline for immediate eligibility. He picked the Illini over three other finalists: North Carolina, Texas Tech and Memphis.

Mayer is the third player to join Illinois via the transfer portal since January. Tall man Dain Dainjaalso a Baylor transfer, came to Illinois during the January vacation, and wing Terrence Shannon Jr. signed a Big Ten Tender of Financial Agreement earlier this month.

Mayer has been a major role player for Baylor over the past two seasons, including a 55-9 overall record (27-5 Big 12) for the Bears, two NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds, and the 2021 NCAA Tournament title.

During the Bears’ 2020-21 national championship season, Mayer came off the bench in all 30 games and averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 48.9% with 39.5% from under three.

Last season, Mayer started in all 33 games and averaged 9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 40.9%, including 32.4% from three.

Illinois has two grants remaining and is in the midst of a major roster overhaul. Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams and Alfonso Plummer each exhausted his or her collegial authority. Kofi Cockburn Submitted to the NBA Draft a third time and cannot withdraw from the draft process after three entries. Both Austin Hutcherson and Jacob Grandison also declared for the draft, but announced no intentions for the next season. Both have at least one year left to run. Andre Curbelo (Saint John), Brandin Podziemski (Santa Clara) Grandma Payne (Jacksonville) and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (South Carolina) each entered the NCAA transfer portal.

According to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, the Illini have the No. 9 recruiting class in the county, which consists of Heaven Clark (No. 29), Ty Rodgers (No. 51), Jayden Epps (No. 68) and Sencire Harris (No. 110).

What it means: Illinois continues to get longer on the wing with Mayer, who is 6-foot-9. head coach Brad Underwood and his coaching staff are building a diverse, athletic team that, in theory, will be extremely changeable in every position. After years of playing with a dominant big man — one of the best in Illinois program history — and rotating offense around Cockburn, Illinois should play very differently next season. Mayer encourages that and is a huge asset to Illinois via the transfer portal. Like Dainja, he was on Baylor’s 2021 national championship team and would help usher in a new era for basketball in Illinois.

Defensively, Mayer can rotate and play multiple positions, which should fit perfectly with what Underwood is aiming for with next season’s team.

“Big wings have a big advantage,” Underwood said last week while discussing the addition of Shannon. “We could play a little smaller. We got away with it with Kofi. I look back at my Stephen F. Austin teams, my Oklahoma State teams, we had big wings and they were great rebounders and very versatile. Unless you want 7-foot, 300 in the middle, you better figure out how to rebound and do some things. I am very enthusiastic about the versatility that we bring to the defensive.”

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