By Joe Henricksen

Top young talent visiting Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

The University of Illinois basketball program will open its doors to one of the nation's best young talents on Saturday when Johnnie Vassar visits campus.

Vassar, a 6-0 freshman point guard and Chicago native who attends highly-regarded Lawrence Academy in Groton (Mass.), is considered by many to be one of the top players nationally in the Class of 2014. Superlatives like "special" and "unique" have been thrown around when it comes to describing Vassar's talents by those who have watched him play and character by those who know him. Vassar is considered to be an explosive lefty point guard with great athleticism and tools that give him star potential. 

"People talk about my defense a lot too," Vassar was quick to tell the Hoops Report, which is something that doesn't come out of the mouth of too many young players today.

What is also "special" and "unique" about Vassar is that when talking with him it's easy to think you're having a conversation with a freshman in college rather than a freshman in high school. He's extremely sharp, respectful, goal-driven and mature for his age, qualities that shine through pretty easily and show the job his mother, Cherise Vassar, has done in raising him.

The idea of a prospect like Vassar on campus, with his talent, coming-of-age and character, will certainly excite coach Bruce Weber and the Illinois coaching staff. Vassar will be a huge recruiting priority for the Illinois staff going forward. With assistant coach Jerrance Howard leading the charge, Illinois was one of the first high-major programs on Vassar and will be the first to get a visit. Again, the recruiting aggressiveness by Illinois continues as Howard spent time at Lawrence Academy earlier this week and has placed an importance on building a relationship with Vassar and his family.

"This will be my first visit," says Vassar, whose family has also gotten to know Simeon sophomore Jabari Parker and his family in recent years. "I'm looking forward to the visit, seeing the school, visiting with the coaches. Coach Howard has been great. It should be fun. I'm familiar with Illinois. I followed their program and watched them a lot when Dee Brown and Deron Williams played there, and I really like Deron Williams as a player. I've also learned how strong Illinois is academically from my cousin who goes to school at Illinois right now."

Vassar and his family are originally from Chicago and his mother and family still reside there. 

"We live in Chicago, but I have been going to school at Lawrence Academy," says Vassar, who is home visiting for the weekend and has been attending a respected, high-academic boarding school for several years. "This gives me a chance to check out Illinois."

Vassar has Team USA Development Team experience and plays on the club circuit with BABC, which recently won the Hall of Fame New England Championship and reached the title game of the Nike Boo Williams Invitational earlier this spring. Vassar opened eyes at Boo Williams while playing with BABC's 15-and-under team.

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Wasn't it just a few years ago practically the same article could have been written about another young phenom who committed as a freshman to the Illini? Name of Jereme Richmond.

Gerry... Are you kidding? J Rich had flaws and issues from the get-go that were endless ad it started as a freshman.

It's great that he's a solid character kid but it irritates me to no end when kids leave the state for these out of state prep schools for their education. In part it is an indictment on our public school system, but at the same point, this kid could find a quality education in the city if he worked hard enough for it. Ashame that we don't get to see him on our local scene, but I won't get excited about him (unless he's visiting one of my schools, of course!).

Two positive points!
1) He is friends with Jabari Parker!
2) Jerrance Howard is leading the charge of this recruiting, he doesn't miss often!

All those negative comments about J. Richmond are unwarranted, he is a pro now, so you will have to pay to see him play, even if you don't like him, he has made his choice!

U of I is a great place to get a great education and play hoops, and with Jerrance Howard helping recruit bigtime talent, The Fighting Illini will always have talent, they just have to mesh it together properly, if this young man is friends with Parker, sounds like the ole package deal to me, so entertain them both and see what happens, you have two years to get the job done, we know Coach K is in the background, but the young man Parker lives in Illinois!
Usually where one lives, one works!

Sorry Phil, J.R. may have pro potential, but there is something wrong beneath the surface. I'm afraid the young man made a bad choice. He's not ready mentally. I think this will prove out shortly.

I like his game. And he could potentially be a good pro some day, but not yet. I wish he'd stayed in school for at least another year.

None of them are ever ready, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Jermaine O'Neal, etc....., they are drafted on potential, Jereme Richmond had a plan and he is executing his plan, see it is his plan, not our's, his plan, I know he isn't ready, but the pro's say to him, AAU phenom give it a shot, and that is what he is doing, he orally committed to college after his freshman year in high school, he honored the commitment, and now he is going pro, it is his decision, so I am going to support him, I wish him well!
Just remember it was his decision!

Jerrance can recruit all he wants, but Weber can't coach. How long will it take to recognize that. He blames the players for everything and just doesn't have the right persona to be a big time coach. Remember, he won with Self's seasoned players that year. I don't want to see him ruin another Mr. Basketball from Illinois.

You keep throwing that up, these are his player's and he can say what he wants about his players, Self has won a national championship at KU, so why do you keep mentioning his name!
The senior class this past season was a train wreck!
Bill Cole was the worst one, and J. Rich had to play behind him, now you know why he is going pro, he doesn't want to go through that again, Weber is loyal to his player's especially his seniors, they are the one's that didn't put up the numbers, not Weber!

It's unfortunate that we've spent the last 4 years reading about Richmond's committment to U of I and he probably didn't spend two semesters there. There's something wrong with this picture.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on April 22, 2011 9:32 AM.

Crete-Monee's Orris receives Illini offer was the previous entry in this blog.

No AD this year but Spring Showdown a hit is the next entry in this blog.

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