DULUTH, MN (UMD Press Release) – The University of Minnesota Duluth and head coach Justin Wieck have announced the signing of Alex Illikainen, who played three seasons with NCAA Division I University of Wisconsin, to the Bulldog roster for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Illikainen joins as a graduate transfer and will play out his final collegiate season with the Bulldog program.
In his three seasons with the Badgers, Illikainen helped Wisconsin to 64 wins and a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-9 forward had established career marks with 10 points versus Purdue University and seven rebounds against Penn State University during the 2015-16 season. He also notched a collegiate-high 26 minutes in the Nittany Lion game as a key reserve.
“I’m honored to have this opportunity to study and compete at the University of Minnesota Duluth,” said Illikainen. “I’m excited to be close to my family and proud to follow my parents’ footsteps as a Bulldog student-athlete. I’m glad to be home! Go Dogs!”
Illikainen originally hails from Grand Rapids, Minn. In his final two seasons with Grand Rapids High School, Illikainen earned all-state honors, averaging 26.5 points and 15.0 rebounds per game while leaving Grand Rapids as the all-time leading scorer (2,185 points) and rebounder (1,402 rebounds). He finished his high school career at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, helping his team to the 2015 National Prep School championship with a 34-1 record. Illikainen finished ranked as the 95th best player in the country by ESPN.com.
Coming from a family with a long line of athletes, Illikainen’s parents are UMD alumni. His father, Darin, played hockey at UMD (1984-88) and his mother, Mary (Zgonc), played basketball for the Bulldogs (1985-89). His three sisters (Morgen, Molly, and Maddy) all played hockey collegiately. Morgan played college hockey at Dartmouth College, Molly played at St. Cloud State University and Maddy played at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
“We are thrilled to add such a high-level player and person to our program,” said Wieck, who had the fifth-most wins of any first-year head coach at a Division II school in 2018-19. “Alex will make an immediate impact for us both on the court and off. Hailing from Grand Rapids, it is great to add a local athlete back home to our program. We look forward to adding him to our current roster as we continue to push this program forward. What an exciting day!”
The men’s basketball team will get an early jump start on the 2019-20 season with a foreign exhibition trip scheduled to Costa Rica in late July.