Father of Ohio State's E.J. Liddell refutes report of Illinois transfer interest
Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell might leave the Buckeyes for the NBA, but it won’t be to join the Fighting Illini.
Liddell’s father, Eric, refuted a Monday report from the Champaign-Urbana (Illinois) News-Gazette that the first-team all-Big Ten player was considering a transfer to Illinois, a school he heavily considered out of high school.
“No, he’s not going to Illinois,” Eric Liddell said Monday morning. “We haven’t talked to not one person from Illinois. That hasn’t even been in our household. We’re just testing the waters right now.”
After a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 16.2 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds while playing 29.3 minutes in 28 games – all starts – Liddell announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft and gauge his draft stock while also retaining his collegiate eligibility with a March 31 message posted to social media.
He picked the Buckeyes after being a rare two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball winner from a list of finalists that was comprised of Illinois and Missouri. He was at the University of Illinois earlier this month, Liddell’s father said, because his best friend plays football for the Illini: Keith Randolph Jr., a classmate from Belleville West.
“E.J. had a hat on his head,” Eric Liddell said. “He had a hood over his hat. He has his mask on, trying for nobody to see him because he knew stuff like this was going to happen. No, nobody has talked to no Illinois about him transferring. Nowhere near that.”
Instead, the talk has been about preparing for what might come next. The pre-draft process is still being fleshed out, but eight NBA teams have reached out to Liddell about hosting him for workouts once they are permitted to do so.
Last week, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he remains in contact with the Liddell family and that the Buckeyes are helping provide them with the best possible information about his decision.
“They said they wanted to see him once it opens up,” Eric Liddell said. “They want to bring him in to work him out whenever and see what he can do, see how he can dribble and shoot, which he didn’t have much opportunity this year. He can do that, but he didn’t have that much opportunity this year to do it. We’ll see.”