The Big "O" Orlando Antigua Returns to Champaign to Resume His Assistant Coach Role

By Kedric Prince - IlliniGuys Director of Recruiting

April 21st, 2024

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

Sunday afternoon, IlliniGuys learned that former Illinois men's assistant basketball coach Orlando Antigua had finally inked a deal to return to the Illini. After making a few calls we confirmed the much-anticipated reunion.

Antigua's journey with Illinois began back in 2017 when he first joined the Illini staff, bringing with him a wealth of experience and expertise. Over the course of four years, he left an indelible mark on the program, helping shape the trajectory of Illinois basketball in recent years with head Coach Brad Underwood.

However, Antigua opted to return to Kentucky three years ago and rejoin John Calipari, with whom he had worked for five seasons previously at Memphis and with the Wildcats, a run that included winning an NCAA championship in 2012. His contributions that season earned him recognition as the top assistant coach in the country under 40 by ESPN.com. 

Antigua played a pivotal role in assembling five consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting classes, a testament to his keen eye for talent and relentless work ethic.

Prior to his time in Champaign, he spent two and a half seasons as the head coach at South Florida. Additionally, Antigua had the honor of leading the Dominican Republic men's national team from 2013 to 2015. Under his guidance, the team achieved a historic milestone, advancing to the bracket round of the FIBA World Cup for the first time in the country's history.

During his previous stint with Illinois, Antigua played a pivotal role in recruiting former Illinois All-American Kofi Cockburn and played a key role in the development of Giorgi Bezhanishvili.  In his second stint at Kentucky, Antigua helped to transform center Oscar Tshiebwe into one of the nation's premier players as he won national player of the year honors in 2022.

According to sources, Antigua has wasted no time reaching out to recruits, eager to share the news of his return to Champaign. With the addition of Antigua to the coaching staff, Illinois boasts one of the most dominant coaching staffs in all of college basketball, alongside Tim Anderson, Geoff Alexander, Zach Hamer, and Tyler Underwood.

The return of Orlando Antigua symbolized not just a homecoming to Champaign, but is another example of the resurgence of Illinois basketball and the quest to win the program's first-ever national championship. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @KedPrince4 

email: KedIlliniGuys@gmail.com

 

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