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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

The high-post player moves to the elbow to become a read for the second cutter, who goes to the low post. The player with the ball looks to pass to either cutter or attack the rim.

The offense also utilizes the "pinch post," putting emphasis on the player on the elbow. He'll take a pass from the perimeter and read how his defender guards him, looking to set up a two-man game between himself and a guard.

The offense can continue to reset itself with the built-in fluid movement and presents a nightmare for defenses that have to guard so many scoring options. Underwood said he tries to pick on the opponent's weakest defender.

"It's all about the chess match," he said. "If I can make the other coach change as often as possible, that's to our advantage. ... More teams played zone because they don't want to guard it and don't want to go through all the different (options). You can't."

At Daytona, Underwood knew attempting this unconventional system could be risky. But he quickly saw the impact.

"It was not what everybody did," he said. "Who puts a 6-foot guard in the post and runs cutters off him and rolls him to the block for the post-up? One, (the guard we had) was a pretty good post-up player, and two, how many other coaches are teaching their point guard how to play post defense? ... It went from just a 'Let me see how it looks' to 'Wow, this stuff can cause some problems.' "

At Stephen F. Austin, versatile players found success in the system. Jacob Parker, the team's 6-foot-7 big man, averaged 14.2 points and became the Southland Conference's player of the year in 2013-14. Thomas Walkup, at 6-4, won the same honor the next two seasons, averaging 15.6 and 18.1 points.

"It was the only way we could score in the paint," Underwood said. "We weren't going to win with post-ups."

Illinois' versatile 6-10 forward Michael Finke, who shot 41 percent on 3-pointers last season, could be a perfect fit.

"It's a lot of footwork and knowing the right cuts," Finke said. "It's really precise. The pinch post, I love that position. It's so much fun and I love the freedom that you have."

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