Illinois added some much-needed interior size on Monday afternoon as Kent State center Adonis De La Rosa announced his pledge to the Illini.
The 7-foot, 260-pound De La Rosa started his career with a redshirt year at St. John’s before spending his second year of college at Williston State College. De La Rosa has spent the last two seasons at Kent State, as he averaged a solid 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 56 percent shooting as a junior.
Since Illinois lost its frontcourt of Leron Black and Michael Finke from last season, the Illini were in desperate need of some experience on the interior as De La Rosa should be a nice option to plug into the middle. In a Big Ten conference that features physically-imposing big men like Michigan State’s Nick Ward and Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson, Illinois needed someone to counter those bigger interior players.
One of the key things to watch for with De La Rosa will be his health.
During March, De La Rosa tore his ACL during the MAC Tournament and had surgery on the injury later that month. While most ACL injuries require 6-to-9 months of recovery time, it varies for everyone. De La Rosa will likely still be recovering and working through the injury through the summer in order to get ready for the season.
Having lost Keith Thomas last month, the potential loss of freshman center Adonis De La Rosa was another hit for a St. John’s team that’s already lacking front court depth. With the NCAA ruling that De La Rosa was a non-qualifier, the possibility of the Christ the King product taking the floor for Steve Lavin at any point this season did not look good at all.
However things have changed, as a trip to his old high school has resulted in the NCAA declaring De La Rosa eligible to compete. It should be noted that the NCAA is still reviewing the situation, so things could change at any point in time. According to Zach Braziller of the New York Post, De La Rosa was able to get confirmation from Christ the King that he took the SAT in June.
De La Rosa’s SAT score was flagged due to a “third party” raising suspicions about the validity of the score, per the New York Post. So this all means that De La Rosa will be on the court when the Red Storm open their season Friday night against NJIT, right? Not exactly, according to Braziller’s report.
He will practice and can play in games, but Johnnies coach Steve Lavin is expected to keep De La Rosa out of action until his situation with the NCAA is completely resolved, according to one of the sources. He is expected to be on the bench with his teammates for Friday night’s opener against NJIT at Carnesecca Arena.
With or without De La Rosa there are going to be times when the Red Storm play a smaller lineup, either with Sir’Dominic Pointer seeing time as an undersized power forward of the team going to a five-guard lineup as they did at times in their final exhibition game last week.
But there’s a need for another body in the post, to both give starter Chris Obekpa some time to rest and to ensure that the team is covered should Obekpa land in foul trouble or suffer an injury. The hope in Queens is that the final ruling works in De La Rosa’s favor, thus giving them a talented big man who can help in the quest to reach the NCAA tournament.
For the second time in as many weeks, the St. John’s front court is without one of its newcomers.
Keith Thomas, a junior college transfer who averaged 15.7 boards per game at Westchester Community College, was ruled academically ineligible, the fallout of an alleged scandal involving the Westchester basketball program forging transcripts.
On Tuesday night, hours after a report from Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News, the St. John’s athletic department announced that freshman center Adonis De La Rosa was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA.
“The St. John’s athletic department was recently informed by the NCAA Eligibility Center of the change in certification status for Adonis De La Rosa after new information revealed the student-athlete does not meet eligibility requirements,” St. John’s Director of Athletics Chris Monasch said in a statement. “The University will continue to review the options available in this particular case.”
The 7-foot freshman center, who was listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals, did not play in the Red Storm’s first exhibition game, but did manage to score 10 points and corral five rebounds in 15 minutes against St. Thomas Aquinas College (New York) on Saturday afternoon.
St. John’s has arguably the top back court in the Big East led by D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan and Phil Green IV. But its frontline is a serious concern heading into a season where the Red Storm expect to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament after being left out on Selection Sunday last March. Outside of junior shot blocker Chris Obepka, redshirt sophomore Christian Jones and freshman Amar Alibegovi are the only other Johnnies to play in the preseason who stand over 6-foot-7.
The Red Storm open the season on Friday against NJIT at Carnesecca Arena.