Ekey, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound redshirt junior forward, will be immediately eligible at Illinois as he will pursue a graduate degree unavailable at Illinois State. He also received interest from Boston College, Creighton, Nevada, Purdue, among others schools after recently announcing he was leaving Illinois State.
"I just think it's the Big Ten," Ekey said of his decision to attend Illinois. "It's one of the conferences growing up I wish I could play in. It has some of the best teams in the country. It's close to where I've been the last four years. I have a lot of my friends here. Illinois has a great business school. It's just a great school.
"Being able to go somewhere I could use my skills that I have as a stretch 4-man and just for a team that wanted to use what I can do was important. I can contribute in any way whether it's starting or coming off the bench and scoring."
Ekey played in 33 games, including making 18 starts, and averaged 6.5 points, 4.2 points, one block and 22.9 minutes for Illinois State last season. He was 31 of 89 from 3-point range for a .348 percentage. He scored in double digits in 10 games. He started in 57 games as a freshman and sophomore.
Ekey said his previous relationship with Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham, previously an assistant at Illinois State, and his interest to play for Illinois coach John Groce also helped in his decision.
"(Groce) just has that energy," Ekey said. "He makes you feel excited about the plans he has for you. He made me feel excited about next season, wish next season would start already."
Ekey and returning guard Joseph Bertrand will be the lone seniors on next year's Illinois team. Ekey said he hoped to be able to help the team with his leadership.
"I'm hoping to go in and be a leader," Ekey said. "That's one of the things coach Groce has been saying to me. I was in a leadership role here at Illinois State. I was a captain here. I went through a lot of things here. Hopefully, I can help them."
Ekey is the second transfer Illinois has received in the past week. Seton Hall sophomore guard Aaron Cosby committed to transfer to Illinois on Friday.
Along with Ekey, Illinois will also have five incoming freshmen and Rayvonte Rice, who sat out last season after transferring from Drake, eligible to play to play next season. ESPN ranked the Illini's 2013 recruiting class at No. 18 in the country.