CHAMPAIGN – Trent Fraizer doesn’t mince words when discussing new teammate Alfonso Plummer and what the Utah transfer might be capable of doing on the Illinois field this season.
Frazier is blunt. He has first-hand experience, after all, of trying to slow Plummer down during training.
“It’s a problem,” Frazier said in a neutral tone. “He will be the best shooter in the country this year. It is a problem. It’s a challenge. He shoots the ball to a high clip. I don’t think I’ve ever played someone like that who can shoot as fast as me.
“I never know when he shoots the ball. He’s going to give defenders trouble this year to run off the screens and be able to free everyone. “
Illinois coach Brad Underwood is equally enthusiastic in his praise of Plummer. He spent part of his 35-minute press conference on media day on the Illini campus last week saying there wasn’t enough writing about his team’s new goalkeeper .
Of course, Underwood has sung Plummer’s praises since Illinois signed him in April after spending the last two seasons with the Utes. Underwood was quick to mention both Plummer’s record 11 three-point games in the 2020 Pac-12 tournament and his 23-point performance at Colorado last season which saw him drop 21 points over the past season. Last 7 minutes and 49 seconds of the match.
“He’s one of the best shooters I’ve coached,” Underwood said. “Period. And I was fortunate enough to coach a young man named Phil Forte in Oklahoma State, who is (one of the) Big 12’s all-time best three-pointers.
Plummer was not always a shooter. He played more of a slasher / goalscorer role during his early basketball years. Everything changed when he was 12 years old after receiving sound advice from his father, Renan.
“My dad stressed that I would be little,” Plummer said. “I had to be able to shoot and find space and make plans for myself because I’m going to be shorter than the other guys. He focused on shooting.
The next twelve years saw Plummer become a marksman. In high school in Colegio La Luz Juncos in his native Puerto Rico. In two seasons at Arizona Western where he shot 45% from three points. And in two seasons in Utah where he was a 40% shooter.
“If you want to be good you can just go to the gym and get around 500 shots or do some dribbling or gliding drills for defense,” Plummer said. “You can be average. If you want to be awesome, you have to work on the details. If you want to be a shooter you have to work your elbow. You have to work on your body and on the way you finish your shot. What you think about when you shoot. You have to work on the details to be your best.
Andre Curbelo has proven to be an enthusiastic recruiter once Plummer hits the transfer portal this offseason. Curbelo mostly knew Plummer in Puerto Rico – the latter is a few years older – but Curbelo understood both what Plummer could bring to the Illini and what he could do to help his compatriot native of Puerto Rico.
“I was delighted he was here,” Curbelo said. “I was in his ear because I know what I can do for him. I know how important I can be to him. I didn’t bring him here because he was going to bring me a lot of assists. I wanted him to come here because he’s in fifth grade and has one more chance to do great things. We’re a program that chases greatness, so I wanted him to come here so I could push him and make him the best player he can be.
It certainly fits with how Plummer sees his super senior season. The bonus year of eligibility gave him another opportunity to prove himself by playing at the highest level of college basketball.
One more chance to show a more complete version of his game that he felt a bit lost in Salt Lake City.
“I did a great job last year in Utah, but I feel like I can do a lot better,” Plummer said. “I know I have a lot of skills as a player that I didn’t show last year. I just want to have this opportunity again to show the world that I can be a much better player and a much better teammate. “
The shoot will still be there. Underwood called him “gifted”. He said few players have Plummer’s ability to run away from the basket, pivot, and catch and shoot – with reach – like Plummer can.
The Illinois coach, already impressed with the work ethic Plummer has shown during his still limited time at Champaign, is already considering ways to give him the ball if he gets on a radiator like he does. did it in that 11th three-point game of 2020 or last year’s unreal scoring explosion in Colorado.
And Plummer plans to get that hot again.
“Oh, it’s dangerous,” he said. “Not just me. I know a lot of shooters, when they’re in the zone it’s dangerous. It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how well you play on defense. If a shooter sees the rim and shoots, he gets in. “
Scott Richey is a journalist covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is [email protected], and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).