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With his relentless offensive system, Brad Underwood looks to bring Illinois out of doldrums

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

For years as a Kansas State basketball assistant, Brad Underwood attempted to persuade coach Frank Martin to implement his unique offensive scheme.

"He was relentless," Martin said.

The Wildcats, who had started the 2010-11 season ranked No. 3 nationally, weren't clicking offensively. They started Big 12 play 4-6. Martin knew it was time for a change.

"I called him and said, 'Brad, you know that offense that for the last four years you've been talking to me about?' " recalled Martin, now South Carolina's coach. " 'Tomorrow morning I need to meet with you and have you show it to me. We need to try something different.' "

Kansas State won its final six conference games and made it to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

"All of a sudden, it started clicking," Underwood said.

Said Martin: "He did what all loyal assistants do. He never stopped telling me what he believed in."

Underwood had validation that his spread offense worked. Not that he didn't fiercely believe in it before.

He still believes in it, an offense designed around spacing, ball reversals and hard cuts he hopes will help propel Illinois basketball out of the depths. The Illini open the season Friday at the State Farm Center against Southern.

While Illinois has missed the NCAA Tournament the last four years, its longest drought since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Underwood's teams have gone dancing each season -- three times with Stephen F. Austin and last season at Oklahoma State.

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