CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — What once looked to be a promising run in Champaign has come to an end for Illinois guard Andre Curbelo. The sophomore announced his decision to enter the NCAA transfer portal on Monday via Twitter.
"Illini Nation... where do I begin?" Curbelo wrote. "These past two years have been insane. So many amazing moments and some hard times that we had to battle through. I am so thankful I could be a part of this program. Without my teammates and staff, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish all of (the) things that I did personally & that WE did collectively. I'm thankful that I was a part of two amazing teams here at the University of Illinois & for the relationships I have made."
"I'm thankful for all of the support from The Orange Krush, you all were my energy and the reason I never stopped pushing. Unfortunately, my time here at the UIUC has come to an end & I have decided to enter the transfer portal."
Curbelo's decision follows an injury-riddled sophomore season and a regression on the court after he was named Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team during the 2020-21 campaign.
He missed nearly two months of the regular season after suffering a concussion, and returned in January before missing two more games due to COVID-19.
Curbelo just never seemed to find his rhythm compared to a season ago. He saw a significant decrease in field-goal percentage, and a dip in points, rebounds, assists and a rise in turnovers.
Andre Curbelo - Illinois game averages
- 2020-21: (21.5 MPG) 9.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.6 turnovers, 49.8 FG%
- 2021-22: (19.3 MPG) 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.8 turnovers 32.9 FG%
The low point in the season for Curbelo came in the team's second-round exit against Houston on March 20. He played just 10 minutes and shot 0-for-4 from the field with no points, one assist and two turnovers before head coach Brad Underwood chose to bench Curbelo for the entire second half in the Illini's 68-53 loss.
As a whole, a majority of the Illini played poorly against Houston. Nobody outside of junior Kofi Cockburn and freshman RJ Melendez managed to shoot above 30% from the field. Still, Underwood decided to sit Curbelo who struggled after coming off a 1-for-7 (FG), five-points and six-turnover performance against Chattanooga in the first round; and a 1-for-7 (FG), five-point showing against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, there were times Curbelo still showed flashes of the excitement and energy he brought to the court as a freshman. His scoring and playmaking abilities were critical for an Illinois team that captured its first Big Ten Tournament title since 2005.
The 6-foot-1 guard from San Juan, Puerto Rico, will forever be a part of historic teams in Champaign, but a fresh start elsewhere could be what's needed for him to take the next steps in his career and build off the promise he's shown.
As for the Illini, Curbelo's exit follows fellow guards Trent Frazier, Da'Monte Williams and Alfonso Plummer.