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

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

Underwood has fed the system piecemeal to his Illinois players, five of whom are freshmen.

"There is a certain level of basketball IQ that has to be developed through repetition to run it," he said. "It looks simplistic, but the reads take some time. Timing is very important. I script the first five things in the game I want to do. I'm like an offensive coordinator in football."

Underwood watches more NBA games these days, trying to pick up nuances from coaches who increasingly run positionless basketball. His veteran team at Stephen F. Austin could run at least 30 spread counters to the defenses they faced.

"You couldn't guard us," he said. "It can get pretty intricate."

Underwood grins as he talks about the spread offense and its variations. For him, creating new wrinkles to it is like completing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

"As much as I've run it and the things we've done, it still challenges me mentally every day to find things and create things out of it," he said. "It's not just Point A to Point B. There's so much creativity. It's been fun to challenge myself mentally with it."

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