UIC shooting for better results in second season under Yaklich

  • UIC guard Godwin Boahen (25) defends against Northern Kentucky guard Bryson Langdon (5) during a March 2020 game. After a rough end to last season, second-year UIC men's basketball coach Luke Yaklich has higher hopes for the Flames.

    UIC guard Godwin Boahen (25) defends against Northern Kentucky guard Bryson Langdon (5) during a March 2020 game. After a rough end to last season, second-year UIC men's basketball coach Luke Yaklich has higher hopes for the Flames. Associated press

 
 
Updated 11/10/2021 7:01 PM

The Illinois-Chicago men's basketball team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, and the Flames are not expected to end that trend this season.

But after opening with a 64-54 loss at Dayton Tuesday night, the Flames seem to be on the right path under second-year head coach Luke Yaklich, who honed his skills as an assistant at Texas, Michigan and Illinois State.

 

COVID-19 and an endless string of injuries marred Yaklich's first season on the UIC bench, and the Flames crashed and burned at the end, dropping 8 of their final 9 games.

Plenty of talent returns, and Illinois-Chicago looks to be a sleeper in the Horizon League.

Top returnees:

Maurice Commander, guard; Michael Diggins, forward; Zion Griffin, forward.

Commander and Diggins combined to average 21 points per game last season. Griffin led UIC with 17 points vs. Dayton.

New faces:

Kevin Johnson, guard (Nicholls State transfer); Jalen Warren (Florida Gulf Coat transfer).

Warren averaged 12.3 points per game for FGCU last season.

Key losses:

Teyvion Kirk, guard; Rob Howard, forward.

Worth noting:

Known as a defensive guru before taking over at Illinois-Chicago, Yaklich has players like Johnson and guard Damaria Franklin to help shut down the opposition.

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