Men’s basketball adds staff, two players
UIC head men’s basketball coach Steve McClain hired Brendan Mullins as assistant basketball coach and signed Texas standouts Hassan Thomas (F, 6-7, 200, Dallas, Texas) and Michael Kolawole (G, 6-5, 185, Garland, Texas) to National Letters of Intent to play for the Flames next season.
Mullins, a native of Downers Grove, spent the past five seasons as a staff member at Wright State.
“I am excited to have Brendan on the UIC basketball staff,” McClain said. “He brings an intimate knowledge of the Horizon League and the type of high-level energy we need.”
Mullins was promoted after two seasons at Wright State from the director of operations to assistant coach. During his five years at Wright State, Mullins helped the Raiders post back-to-back 20-win campaigns and two postseason tournament appearances. He also helped Wright State reach 10 wins in league play three times.
Before Wright State, Mullins spent a season as the director of operations at Green Bay. During the 2009-10 season, the Phoenix went 22-13 and finished third in the conference standings with a record of 11-7, including a postseason trip to the College Basketball Invitational.
Mullins was an assistant coach at Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania for two seasons before heading to Green Bay.
He was a four-year letterwinner at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, where he became one of the most prolific three-point shooters in program history. He ranks fifth on the school’s all-time leaderboard with 200 career triples. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Saint Michael’s in 2007 and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Mercyhurst in 2009.
Mullins was recently inducted into the Downers Grove South High School Hall of Fame. He led the Mustangs to an Elite Eight appearance in 2003.
His father, Mike Mullins, is the director of the Illinois Wolves AAU program and his brother, Bryan, is the director of men’s basketball operations for Loyola-Chicago.
The Flames’ two new basketball players are highly rated.
Thomas comes to UIC as the No. 3-ranked power forward in Texas, according to ESPN.com. He chose UIC after receiving offers from SMU, TCU, UTEP, Wyoming and Fresno State.
Thomas earned 5A first-team All-State honors his senior season, along with All-Region and All-District accolades. He was also a candidate for Texas’ 5A Mr. Basketball.
Thomas played high school ball for head coach Patrick Washington at Woodrow Wilson, where he averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game this past year. He also played for the Dallas Mustangs on the AAU circuit.
“Hassan has a very high ceiling and will be a great fit for our up-tempo style of play,” McClain said. “He has a knack for rebounding and his instincts are tremendous.”
Kolawole received scholarship offers from Fresno State and George Mason, but ultimately decided to play for UIC. He is a two-time District MVP and beat out Ohio State-signee Austin Grandstaff for the honor this season.
Kolawole averaged 22.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game during his senior year at Rowlett High School under the direction of head coach Jason Busch. While at Rowlett, he also earned All-State Honorable Mention and All-Regional laurels. Kolawole played with Thomas as a member of the AAU Dallas Mustangs.
“Michael has the ability to score in many different ways,” said McClain. “He has a smooth outside shot and a very advanced skillset.”
UIC Athletics granted Burak Eslik and Garrett Bye their release from the basketball program. Eslik and Bye signed with the Flames in November.