Mike Cagley, IlliniGuy
January 19, 2022
There's a lot that has been said about the Purdue game. It was one of the greatest games I've watched at the State Farm Center/Assembly Hall - and I've been going to games there since 1979. The game was entertaining on multiple levels:
While the Illini couldn't pull out the victory, the team laid down more building blocks for the foundation of success for the rest of the season.
One other event happened, though it was on Tuesday. The program announced the fact that Dain Dainja enrolled in classes at the U of I. Dainja is a former four-star prospect out of Brooklyn Park, MN. He redshirted last season at Baylor and playing three games this season before entering the transfer portal. This enrollment may not do much for this season's team - or maybe it will via practice.
Dainja is certainly a player with unrealized potential. What better coaching staff to help draw that out of him than the Illinois staff? One can see the year-to-year development of players like Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Kofi Cockburn and only imagine what could be done to develop Dainja. Add in the physical transformations that the country's best Strength and Conditioning Coach Adam Fletcher can produce - and one can see why Dain decided the Illini are the basketball program for him.
Dainja is a 6'9", 270-pound forward/big with a 7-foot, 7-inch wingspan. He possesses excellent ball handling skills, a soft shot, and good passing skills. To those with imaginations, the Illini could look a bit like Purdue does this year, assuming Kofi returns. Kofi could be backed up by Dainja to make a very potent 1-2 punch at center. Or Dainja could make a run for playing time at the power forward position. If Kofi exits to try his luck in the NBA, Dainja will help man the post with Omar Payne.
If Dainja can live up to his potential, today the Illini have accomplished a long-term win that many might've missed. And if he plays well in practice this season, he could help this year's team improve as well. It's a win-win for the Illini.
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