The Illinois men's basketball team announced Friday that it has decided to part ways with redshirt junior guard Aaron Cosby. Head coach John Groce said in a news release that the decision was mutual and that he "will be rooting for (Cosby) to have a great finish to his career."
In his first season with the Illini, the Seton Hall transfer averaged 7.8 points in 19 games. After a retinal tear in his left eye sidelined Cosby for two games in January, he was then suspended indefinitely along with senior Rayvonte Rice for violating team rules. Rice was reinstated on Feb. 12 against Michigan, while Cosby remained suspended.
So what does this sudden drop from the lineup mean for the Illini?
Cosby began the season in the starting lineup for John Groce's crew. He showed promising signs in the beginning of the season with his ability to knock down shots from behind the arc. But Cosby soon lost his starting position after sophomore Kendrick Nunn's consistency had outdone that of Cosby.
Despite his success earlier in the season, Cosby's consistency dropped off after his first few games. For players that have attempted more than 10 shots from behind the arc, Cosby had the team's worst shooting percentage (29.3 percent) and the second worst 3-point shooting percentage (31.1 percent).
Because Cosby has not been on the roster since January, the Illini will not have to make too many adjustments now that he is permanently off the team. They have adjusted well during his time off the team having only lost two games, one of which was this past weekend at Wisconsin.
Heading into the 2015-2016 season, Illinois will now lose four members of its current roster. In addition to Cosby, Illinois will lose seniors Ahmad Starks, Nnanna Egwu and Rice to graduation.
Replacing Cosby next season should not be an issue for the Illini as they will add three freshmen that are capable of playing guard. As a 6-foot-3 guard, Jalen Coleman-Lands was a consensus national top-40. Champaign will also welcome a 6-foot5 guard and No. 85 ranked in Aaron Jordan. Out of Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, D.J. Williams will join his former high school teammates Nunn and Jaylon Tate. At 6-foot-7, Williams is listed at the wing but like the others can compete as both a shooting guard and small forward.
Overall, the Cosby loss does not have a huge impact on the Illini. In his first year on John Groce's squad, Cosby has not solidified a major role with the team. Plus, Illinois has already managed a way to survive without him in the past month that finishing off the season will not be much different. The biggest impact is that dropping him from the roster does require other players, specifically Kendrick Nunn, to contribute more minutes, which could lead to a more tired lineup.
Next up for Illinois is a home game against Michigan State on Sunday. The Illini took down the Spartans in East Lansing in a down-to-the-wire match on Feb. 7.