Busting Brackets

Memphis Basketball: Tigers get transfer Dain Dainja from Illinois

Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Dain Dainja (42) shoots the ball
Mar 28, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Dain Dainja (42) shoots the ball / Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

With hundreds of college basketball players on the move again this offseason, it’s not a surprise to see lineups drastically changed from one season to the next. One of the latest maneuvers was big man Dain Dainja’s decision to commit to Memphis for his senior season after success this past season at Illinois.

Dainja is a 6’9 center from Minnesota who originally committed to Baylor four seasons ago. Despite being ranked among the Top 100 prospects in the nation, he took a redshirt year and did not factor into the Bears’ national championship run in 2021. He would play just nine total minutes as a redshirt freshman before transferring away from Baylor.

Dainja would arrive at Illinois in 2022 and help fill some of the void left by the departure of Kofi Cockburn. During that sophomore season he’d start more than half of the Illini’s games while averaging 9.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, though he didn’t quite have the same role this past season.

Used less frequently, Dainja averaged just 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds a game as a junior, though he did help Illinois to their first Elite Eight run in nearly twenty years. He was a solid scorer early in the season before taking more of a backseat during Big Ten play. However, Dainja recently had his best performance of the season, with 21 points and 8 rebounds in Illinois’s Tourney win against Morehead State.

Following that reduction in usage, Dainja opted to enter the Transfer Portal, no doubt looking for a more prominent role in another lineup. After less than a week in the Portal he’s found his new home under Penny Hardaway and Memphis, fitting nicely into a lineup that’s already added shooting guard PJ Haggerty from Tulsa.

Next. Candidates to watch for open Arkansas job. Candidates to watch for open Arkansas job. dark

The Tigers fell short of their goals and expectations, failing to reach the Big Dance this season, but Dainja’s addition is another great step forward. While his time on the court was limited, Dainja did make 67% of his shots this season and showed promise in that frontcourt. At Memphis he’ll hopefully get a chance to spread his wings even more against AAC competition.