An epic Public League championship game, in which Curie’s Cliff Alexander got the better of Young’s Jahlil Okafor on the scoreboard and in the box score, reopened a wound for some Illinois fans.

Or, at the least, it made them consider anew just what could have been had Big Cliff chosen to take his big-time, one-and-done game to Champaign instead of Lawrence, Kan.

Yes, that signing day hat fake still hurts a little bit.

Instead, the Illini will surround a different big man throughout the 2014-15 season. Make that the same old big man. Yes, the never exciting — but always improving — Nnanna Egwu.

There are a lot of things Alexander could’ve learned from a guy such as Egwu, who was born in Nigeria but grew up in Chicago and played his high-school ball at St. Ignatius.

For starters, the 6-11, 250-pound junior has become an elite-level defender. Long-ago Northwestern star Shon Morris, an analyst for the Big Ten Network, calls Egwu and Michigan’s Jordan Morgan the two best post defenders in the conference. Rare for a player his size, Egwu is excellent at switching off on point guards against the pick-and-roll.

On a team whose defense has had to keep it in games all season, Egwu has been the glue. In a 60-49 home-court victory by Illinois (16-12, 5-10 Big Ten) against Nebraska (16-11, 8-7) on Wednesday night, Egwu contributed eight points and five rebounds. Freshman Kendrick Nunn led the way with 13 points.

“It’s hard to argue that [leading scorer] Ray Rice isn’t their most important player,” Morris said, “but Egwu’s right there. He sets the tone.”

Morris believes Egwu could be the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year next season. Also, that he has a legitimate chance to play in the NBA.

“Someone will give him a good, long look,” Morris said.

Stephen Bardo, the former Illini star and also a Big Ten Network analyst, has an even brighter view of Egwu’s future.

“A lot of people think I’m crazy when I say this, but pro scouts salivate at his footwork and his size,” Bardo said. “I definitely believe he can play at the next level.”

Meantime, Egwu gets to continue to be one of John Groce’s all-time favorites as a coach. After Alexander chose Kansas over Illinois, Groce made a point of describing the players he did sign as “Illini guys.”