Transfer Ilic to bring big body to Blazers



While basketball is scored by baskets, there are a number of ways players can be productive without scoring.

Vincennes University may have tabbed into one of those players with its latest recruit, 6-7 Matija Ilic.

Ilic redshirted at Idaho State a year ago after breaking his foot before the season opener, so he has two years of eligibility for the national champion Trailblazers.

The 230-pounder is the first post player in the 2019 recruiting class, and coach Todd Franklin said that is a position of need. Ilic plays on the low block, according to Franklin, with his own offense not near the top of his list of attributes.

"Matija is big and plays like a post player. He bangs and sets screens. He has not been one of the primary offensive guys and he's OK with that," said Franklin, who noted that Ilic reminded him of former VU player Dainius Chatkevicius. "His jump hook doesn't look bad, so he has things to work with. But the thing with Matija is that he brings physicality to the table and we needed that."

Ilic, from Serbia, came to the United States to play his senior year of high school at Wasatch Academy in Utah. Wasatch advanced to the eight-team National Tournament, losing to La Lumiere in the quarterfinals, and Ilic was the starting center. He only averaged 3.5 points per game, but he was one of four on the team who ended up signing with Division I programs.

But Ilic's season at Idaho State was as much of a downer as the team suffered. The Bengals went 11-19 and 7-13 in the Big Sky Conference. Coach Ryan Looney was fired after the season.

"So Matija broke his foot, lost the year and then his coach was fired," Franklin said. "He was looking to transfer and his choices were transfer to another Division I school and burn a year or go to a junior college and play right away.

"He'e a good student and a hard-working player. We didn't get to see him in person, but watched as much film as we could, so we'll see," he said. "He is big and those bodies are hard to find. It's hard to gauge what kind of scorer he's going to be, but he was a D1 recruit out of prep school. He's going to box out and bang. We feel we're going to at least get those things."

Franklin noted Ilic's signing is similar to the one of Jordan Lyons a year ago. Lyons played sparingly at Southern Utah a year ago as a 6-7 small forward. He was moved to power forward and was a reliable rotation player for the Blazers.

"Jordan was a valuable and key piece for us in winning the championship," Franklin said. "Jordan wasn't necessarily the greatest player who ever lived, but you need those type of players. He was a piece of the puzzle.

Ilic, who was just cleared from his foot injury a couple of weeks ago, is the fourth recruit in VU's class that is expected to have seven players. The team just signed 6-5 Christian Wells of Muncie, son of former NBA player Bonzi Wells. The first two recruits were 6-6 John Ukomadu and 6-0 Patrick Fisher.

Franklin noted he wanted to get another post player with his remaining three selections. They have two post players returning, 6-9 Kevin Kone and 6-7 Chinedu Okanu, but neither logged a lot of minutes last season. Okanu did come through with productive play as a reserve in last year's NJCAA Finals in Hutchinson, Kan.

"We're looking to get 40 minutes out of the center position and not be vulnerable if you have one of those players get hurt," Franklin said. "Kone and Okanu are bigger and stronger, working to get better. Some days they look like they have it figured out, and some days they don't."

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