Illinois basketball recruitment: 5-star guard from Lithuania Kasparas Jakucionis finalizes commitment to Illini

Kasparas Jakucionis playing for Barcelona in November 2023
Kasparas Jakucionis playing for Barcelona in November 2023 (Instagram: @kaspa_32)

Illinois basketball fans have every reason to celebrate after the Illini landed 17-year-old top-tier basketball prodigy Kasparas Jakucionis from Europe. According to ESPN on Tuesday, Jakucionis, a projected first-round pick in the 2025 NBA Draft, has committed to Illinois.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound point guard from Lithuania is a 5-star international recruit who is poised to make a splash in the college basketball scene as part of the Class of 2024.

Jakucionis showcased his skills at the 2023-24 Adidas Next Generation Tournament, setting a new assists record of 17 in a game. In addition, his impressive performance earned him all-tournament honors, as he averaged 17.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 9.0 APG.

Jakucionis, who debuted in the ACB aged 16, was also among the youngest players to compete for European giant Barcelona. He made his EuroLeague debut in January.

Moreover, Jakucionis was selected for the All-Star Team at the NBA's Basketball Without Borders Camp in January and later received an invitation to join the Nike Hoop Summit World Team in Portland in April.

How will the Illini benefit from the signing of Kasparas Jakucionis?

Kasparas Jakucionis adds much-needed positional size to the Illini backcourt. While he will need some time to adapt to American basketball, his skill set and experience competing at a high level in Europe make him a valuable asset.

Jakucionis thrives as the main playmaker, particularly in pick-and-roll scenarios and fast breaks. His knack for scoring near the basket and hitting three-pointers brings a dynamic element to the Illini's offensive strategies.

Undoubtedly, he is anticipated to be a key player for Illinois' decorated roster including Kylan Boswell, Ty Rodgers, and Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn. Moreover, Tomislav Ivisic, a 21-year-old Croatian player also joined Illinois earlier this spring. With Jakucionis and Ivisic in the mix, the Illini are poised to make waves in the upcoming season.

Illinois' global recruiting strategy scores again

Illinois has gradually broadened its recruiting efforts overseas, following the footsteps of successful programs like Gonzaga, Michigan, and Arizona.

In the past, they have welcomed talented players from abroad like Kofi Cockburn from Jamaica, Giorgi Bezhanishvili from the Republic of Georgia, and Andrés Feliz from the Dominican Republic. With Kasparas Jakucionis joining the team, Coach Brad Underwood is further strengthening their offensive capabilities.

Illinois fans are now eagerly waiting for Jakucionis’ debut in orange and blue, looking forward to the impact he will make on the court.

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