Illini hoops add 2017 Slovenian big man Matic Vesel

Brad Underwood adds a fifth freshman to his 2017 class.

The Illini have one more big man on the way in the 2017 class, as Slovenian 6-foot-9 forward Matic Vesel has committed to Brad Underwood and Illinois -- a source told on Monday night.

The story was first reported by Illinois Prep Bullseye.

Vesel began an official visit in Champaign on Saturday and headed back to Slovenia on Monday afternoon. Assistant coach Orlando Antigua was the lead recruiter for Vesel, and he utilized connections he established as a FIBA coach for the Dominican Republic national team. That aided him in identifying and succeeding in this pursuit.

What made Illinois the right place for this overseas find?

"The coaches and their vision of the development program," Vesel told on Tuesday morning.

Vesel's mom was also big on her son earning an education versus signing a professional contract as a 19-year-old. Illinois provided that opportunity as well. Vesel is a member of the U20 Slovenian national team, and he has also played for the Helios Suns -- a club team in Slovenia. Vesel averaged 7.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the U18 FIBA games last summer. He posted 14 points and 13 rebounds in his final game against Turkey.

Illinois likes Vesel's length, mobility and ability to rebound. He also has good handles for his size. The biggest key for his development is adding strength to his frame.

This commitment leaves Illinois with two remaining open scholarships for the upcoming season.

Piper's take

The Illini could use an impact big for next season. While these last two additions to the 2017 class might not be that -- although at least one will need to play -- it's clear to see the upside and the direction of Underwood's thinking. With Vesel, Illinois is getting a combination of length and skill that is very attractive. Sprinkle in some athleticism too. This is a 6-foot-9 forward who can run the floor, slash to the basket and utilize both hands smoothly off the dribble and finishing around the hoop. He's also a natural rebounder, which is a trait that Underwood's teams value very highly.

Vesel just needs to experience some physical evolution, which is a task the program will eagerly place in Adam Fletcher's hands when he arrives in August. When watching his film, you can see the raw intangibles. You also see a handful of good basketball plays that aren't quite completed due to a lack of strength. Against Big Ten-caliber athletes, Vesel could use some more muscle to complement his other mismatch skills at the four (the position the Illini see him at right now). He needs more strength to hold his ground on the glass, as well as finish through contact. And adding a little more explosiveness won't hurt either.

This isn't a move that's going to blow anyone away in the league off the bat. But it's one that may have Big Ten foes saying 'where the...did this guy come from' in a few years. Mix that in with the maturation of Mark SmithTrent Frazier, Da'Monte Williams and fellow freshman big man Greg Eboigbodin down the line -- along with a couple nice adds in future classes -- and Illinois could have a strong nucleus worthy of doing some serious damage.

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