By Joe Henricksen

Illini continue trend, offer young star

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By Joe Henricksen

The recruiting world in college basketball has changed remarkably in recent years, with more and more young high school players being offered scholarships earlier than ever. Illinois coach Bruce Weber has adjusted and adapted to that philosophy. Illinois offered talented freshman guard Donivine Stewart of Limestone following Illinois' game with Minnesota on Saturday.

While it's still awfully early, the Class of 2011 -- this year's freshmen -- is looking as if it's going to be another good class in Illinois, which would follow up an already solid Class of 2010, highlighted by the duo of Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head. That's good news for Weber and the Illini, considering the program could have as many as five or even six scholarships available in that class.

As is usually the case, the guard prospects shine early while big men are slow to develop. There will be no shortage of perimeter talent in the Class of 2011. In my mind, DeLaSalle's Mike Shaw still remains the top pure college prospect in that class, followed by Curie's Wayne Blackshear and Stewart. I have noted in the Hoops Report blog before how Stewart, who had a sensational freshman season, is a little bit different. Those who did not read that previous post, here is a snapshot of how I view Stewart....

He's 5-10 (maybe 5-11) and has an unbelievable feel and understanding for scoring for a player his age. He's not the freakish athletic type, but he's deceptive, can create space for himself and is constantly drawing contact from defenders. He's a determined scoring point guard, head strong and confident. He plays with a swagger in his game which is impressive in a young player at such a demanding position. He's more in the mold of Jameer Nelson, the former star point guard in college at St. Joseph and now playing in the NBA. Or for an Illinois reference, former Westinghouse and Illinois star Kiwane Garris. He also knocks down free throws every time he steps to that line, much like Kiwane Garris did. He will be asked to be more of a point guard at the next level rather than the big-time scoring point he is in high school.

With Illinois having secured so many commitments in the junior and sophomore classes, the target area can definitely now shift to the promising Class of 2011. Illinois is right in the mix for Shaw, has already been on hand to watch Thornton freshman guard Jay Parker, is in the process of picking up its interest in rapidly rising Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams and has another Peorian to watch in 6-5 Andrew Jordan of Peoria Woodruff.

It will be interesting to see how this class plays out and how early the recruiting is pushed up for the stars of 2011.

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14 Comments

I understand the realities of high school and college basketball that have led to 14 and 15 year-olds being offered college scholarships. In Bruce Weber's case, the pressure to bring in big-name recruits is especially intense after five years as Illinois head coach. Dee Brown and the Final Four are in the past, replaced in the present by a 19 loss season.

And it should be noted that there is a long tradition of in-state basketball talent playing their college ball at Illinois, especially among kids from Peoria and Simeon.

But the potential for these early offers to backfire should not be underestimated. First of all, how is a coach going to hold a 17 year-old to a commitment made as a 15 year-old if the kid wants out? Second, what if the 15 year-old has become a 17 year-old displaying unsportsmanlike (or worse) conduct? Or worse yet, what if the "can't miss" 14 year-old has matured into a "did miss" 17 year-old who doesn't merit a Division 1 scholarship? Can the coach withdraw the offer?

Recipe for a problem: blend Donivine Stewart's early offer, Jereme Richmond's early verbal, Eric Gordon's de-commitment and Jamar Smith together with Brian Carlwell in a car. Season with summer club ball and mysterious hangers-on. Mix well and leave unattended for several years. Come back later and see what has happened.

The wisest person in all of this seems to have been high school sophomore Crandall Head's stepfather, Bo Delaney. He clearly tried to convince his stepson that a member of the high school class of 2010 did not need make a college commitment in the year 2007.

Alas, Bo Delaney failed and Crandall Head is among the future recruits Bruce Weber is banking on to lift Illinois' basketball program from the awful depths into which it has fallen.

Be careful what you wish for Bruce...

BRUCE WEBER AND ILLINOIS ARE DOING A SMART THING, BY
GETTING VERBALS FROM THESE KIDS.
1. HE WON'T LOSE HIS JOB UNTIL THESE KIDS ACTUALLY
PLAY FOR HIM, SO HE WON'T LOSE HIS JOB!
2. ALL OF THESE KIDS ARE IN STATE, SO IT SHOWS LOYALTY.
3. WHENEVER YOU SEE A KID LIKE PATRICK BEVERLY PLAYING
FOR ANOTHER SCHOOL INSTEAD OF ILLINOIS, THAT'S WHY
ILLINOIS HAS TO OFFER EARLY TO THESE YOUNG KIDS.
4. COACH JERRANCE HOWARD, FORMER ILLINI, NEW ASSISTANT
COACH IS THE MAIN COG IN ALL OF THIS RECRUITING.
5. LOOK FOR ILLINOIS TO COMPETE VERY WELL FROM NOW
ON, THEY ARE GETTING VERBALS FROM REAL LIVE STUD
BASKETBALL PLAYERS.
6. CRANDALL HEAD IS A BEAST.
7. IF CRANDALL'S BROTHER LUTHER WAS SUCCESSFUL AT
ILLINOIS, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK HIS MORE TALENTED
BROTHER WON'T BE JUST AS SUCCESSFUL.

ERIC GORDON'S DECOMMITMENT TO ILLINOIS WASN'T A BIG
LOSS, IT'S HOW IT HAPPENED WHEN SAMPSON BECAME THE
COACH AT INDIANA.
THE KID IS GOING PRO AFTER THIS SEASON ANYWAY, JUST
LIKE ROSE, AND BEASLEY, AND MAYO. ALL THE NBA DID WAS
POSTPONE THESE GUYS GETTING DRAFTED BY ONE YEAR.
ALL OF THEM ARE BETTER THAN MIKE CONLEY, AND HE'S A
MILLIONAIRE,NOW PLAYING FOR THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES!

BRIAN CARLWELL WAS A GOOD PLAYER IN HIGH SCHOOL, BUT
CONTENT OF CHARACTER AND WORK ETHIC HAS ALOT TO DO
WITH BEING SUCCESSFUL AT THE NEXT LEVEL.
THE KID HAD A HUGE UPSIDE THAT ILLINIOIS COULDN'T
AFFORD TO PASS ON, BESIDES HE ATTENDED THE SAME SCHOOL
AS D. BROWN, REMEMBER EVERY BIG KID YOU RECRUIT HAS A
MARGIN OF ERROR, OR ALL OF THEM WOULD MAKE IT TO THE
PROFESSIONAL RANKS.
I JUST HOPE THE YOUNG MAN RESURFACES AS A STUDENT-
ATHLETE AT ANOTHER UNIVERSITY, HE LEFT THE ILLINOIS
TEAM AT MID-SEASON!

Who said that verbal commitments, especially 2 or 3 year
verbals count. These youngsters experience phases of development psychologically and physically, which mean changes in body and mind will occur. Traditionally, seniors see things and act differently than freshmen.

Its unfair to get kids to commit 2 or 3 years ahead. 1
year commitments are risky enough, but like the NCAA
nothing really counts until the youngster SIGNS A
LETTER OF INTENT.

THESE KIDS ARE INTO IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION.
BY GIVING A VERBAL, IT'S LIKE GIVINGTHEIR WORD,
AFTER ALL THIS IS ILLINOIS, NOT BUCKTUSLE STATE.
SONNY COX FORMER COACH AT KING HIGH SCHOOL SAID
IT BEST, WHY WOULDN'T A KID NOT WANT TO PLAY FOR
ILLINOIS, AFTER ALL THAT'S WHERE MOST OF THEM WILL
WORK WHEN THEY FINISH PLAYING BASKETBALL, AND
GETTING A DEGREE FROM ILLINOIS CARRIES ALOT OF
WEIGHT!
ILLINOIS BASKETBALL PROGRAM HAS TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL,
BECAUSE NOW THE FOOTBALL TEAM IS COMPETITIVE.
BRUCE WEBER IS A GREAT COACH, WASN'T HE THE SAME GUY
THAT GOT THE FIGHTING ILLINI TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP ABOUT
THREE YEARS AGO!

After this disgusting season I am really hoping that Jerrance Howard can help turn this program around. At this point anything other than Chester at point puts a smile on my face! Here is looking at the future! Oh, by the way whoever thinks that not getting Eric Gordon or Derrek Rose isn't that big of a deal is crazy! So what if they are only here for a year! It's the idea that players like that want to be part of your program which will result in commitments from better players. How can anybody make that statement! I'm sure while I'm watching the tournament I will be thinking "you know we are better off without those 2!" Excuse me while I throw up! Please help us Jerrance!

ILLINOIS ISN'T THE KIND OF PROGRAM YOU GET A SCHOLAR-
SHIP FROM AND STAY FOR A YEAR! IN THE HISTORY OF THEIR
PROGRAM I DON'T THINK ANYONE HAS EVER DONE THAT,
MARCUS LIBERTY FROM KING STAYED I BELIEVE TWO YEARS,
BUT HE WAS ON THAT 89 FINAL FOUR TEAM!
WITH ALL THE NEW GUARDS ILLINOIS HAS COMING IN THE
FUTURE, THAT GUY CHESTER WOULD BE A GLORIFIED WALK-ON!

I don't think that anyone would disagree with you that Chester would be a glorified walk-on but after having Frank Williams, Deron Willams and Dee Brown how do expain Chester following that talent? Like I said, I am really looking forward to Jerrance helping good old Bruce on the recruiting scene.

GOOD POINT! I MET BRUCE WEBER AT RICH SOUTH, HE WAS
THERE KEEPING AN EYE ON CRANDALL HEAD, BRUCE WEBER IS
TAKING A MORE HANDS-ON APPROACH WHEN IT COMES TO
RECRUITING, THAT'S WHY THEY'RE GETTING VERBALS FROM
ALL THESE TOP RECRUITS. BRUCE IS ROLLING UP HIS SLEEVES
AND WORKING HARD, ILLINI BASKETBALL WILL NEVER SEE WHAT
HAPPENED THIS YEAR EVER AGAIN!
BOTTOM LINE WHEN SHERRON COLLINS DIDN'T SIGN WITH THE
FIGHTING ILLINI THAT CAUSED A CHAIN-REACTION WITH OTHER
RECRUITS, BILL SELF OUTWORKED ILLINOIS FOR SHERRON,
THAT'S WHY BRUCE WEBER HAS TAKEN THE BULL BY THE HORNS
ACTION IN RECRUITING!
I KNOW SOME OF YOU THINK THAT A FEW OF THESE YOUNG MEN
WILL BACK OUT OF THEIR COMMITTMENT TO ILLINI, BUT YOU
WATCH, ALL OF THEM WILL HONOR THEIR COMMITTMENT, CAN
YOU SAY, SEE YOU AT THE FINAL FOUR!

I'M SO GLAD THAT CALVIN BROCK LISTENED TO COACH WEBER,
COACH ASKED HIM TO REDSHIRT HIS FROSH SEASON.
THE YOUNG MAN HAD A RESPECTABLE SEASON.
AS A FIFTH YEAR SENIOR NEXT YEAR ALONG WITH TISDALE,
COLE, AND SMITH RETURNS, AND FRESHMAN STAN SIMPSON
FROM SIMEON, THE ILLINI RETURNS TO TELEVISON FOR EVERY
GAME! HOLD THE LINE MEN, HELP IS ON THE WAY!
THE CLASS OF 2009 IS LOADED, AND MR. HEAD COMES THE
FOLLOWING YEAR WITH RICHMOND!

If the Jereme Richmond situation is any indication, then this trend of promising scholarships to underclassmen is going to be a nightmare for high school coaches! They already have enough problems with AAU teams and everybody wanting to give these kids something-and all wanting something in return. I can see this undermining some programs, and that is trouble for the students. They need structure and that usually comes from working together toward a common goal. Early commitments breed self-centeredness and self-preservation. College coaches sell their souls and deserve the problems they get. But high school coaches are trying to teach as much as win-well, we hope they are.

JEROME RICHMOND WILL BE A GREAT CITIZEN FOR THE ILLINI
NATION.
WHEN HE WAS AT THE PRIVATE SCHOOL, YOU DIDN'T HEAR A
NEGATIVE WORD ABOUT HIM!
THE YOUNG MAN TRAVELS EXTENSIVELY IN THE SUMMER WITH
HIS AAU PROGRAM, ONCE AGAIN NOTHING ADVERSE ABOUT THE
YOUNG MAN!
HE LIVES IN ILLINOIS AND HE WANTS TO PLAY FOR ILLINOIS!
SO LET'S OPEN OUR ARMS AND GIVE THE YOUNG MAN THE
BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT!

I DON'T BELIEVE BRUCE WEBER EVER SOLD HIS SOUL!
HE STARTED WITH GENE KEADY AT PURDUE, SUCCESSFUL AT
SIU, CHAMPIONSHIP GAME FOR U OF I.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 8, 2008 2:52 PM.

Mt. Carmel's fearless freshman Abrams shines was the previous entry in this blog.

Plenty of intrigue in Class 3A Final Four is the next entry in this blog.

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