Illikainen has been putting up some monster numbers this year, including a 40/20 game and a 30/20 game.
Alex Illikainen, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound sophomore from Grand Rapids, who received a scholarship offer in April from Minnesota, is considered the top player in the state in the Class of 2015. Illikainen helped lead Grand Rapids to the Class AAA state boy’s basketball tournament for the second straight year last season.
Illikainen became the first sophomore in Grand Rapids boys basketball history to go over 1,000 career points in the Thunderhawks’ recent 65-32 rout of Hibbing.
Illikainen attended the Minnesota-Lafayette game and talked to GopherHole.com about the latest on his recruitment and early season play.
Gopher Hole: How pleased are you with the season so far?
Alex Illikainen: We are 5-2. It started off pretty good and now, we are just getting better every game. I am very pleased with our team, the way that we have been playing lately and just hoping to keep on growing as a team and keep getting better and keep winning.
Gopher Hole: You lost a talented point guard in Austin Pohlen, who is now at UMD. Have you been able to replace him and how has that adjustment been not having a player who was able to take some of the pressure off you?
Alex Illikainen: Losing Austin was a big hit, but we have had multiple guys step in and they are doing a great job. We just have to keep working and we’ll be fine.
Gopher Hole: Is this your first college game that you have been able to make it to this year?
Alex Illikainen: Yes. This is the first one. I am hoping to get back down for a conference game or a big game.
Gopher Hole: I know that the Gophers were at your game versus Zimmerman last Saturday. Do you kind of notice the coaches?
Alex Illikainen: I noticed them. They showed up, Tubby and Coach Jirsa were there. It was nice for them to get up.
Gopher Hole: I know that you had some coaches up earlier this year for open gyms, but have you had any coaches up recently?
Alex Illikainen: No one has come up so far, except for Tubby and Coach Jirsa.
Gopher Hole: What are you hearing from the Gophers?
Alex Illikainen: They are really interested. Just want to keep on watching me and hopefully, I get down to more games and keep on building that relationship.
Gopher Hole: What would it mean to play for the homestate school?
Alex Illikainen: It would mean a lot. Have the support of Minnesota and family. Just play for the hometown Gophers.
Gopher Hole: What things have you been really working on to continue to improve yourself as a player?
Alex Illikainen: My ballhandling. I have been getting double-teamed, triple-teamed a lot, so bringing my game outside to get away from all that pressure.
Gopher Hole: How many offers are you up to right now?
Alex Illikainen: Seven. Minnesota, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Creighton, NDSU, Oregon and Nebraska.
Gopher Hole: Which one is the most recent one?
Alex Illikainen: NDSU.
Gopher Hole: What other schools are you hearing from besides those seven?
Alex Illikainen: Kansas, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Gopher Hole: You have been down to the state tournament the past two years. You lost in the first round in 2011 and made it to the second round last year. You are obviously hoping to build on that this season, right?
Alex Illikainen: Absolutely. Going to state, that is our goal. Keeping the streak alive. Right now, just working on keeping getting better, so we can be good at the end of the season.
Gopher Hole: Have you thought much about your summer plans for AAU basketball yet?
Alex Illikainen: I am going to play with the Cyclones again. We have a couple of new big guys. A couple of new team members and it looks really good. It should be fun.