By Joe Henricksen

Djimde makes it 7 for Illini, Jerrance Howard

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By Joe Henricksen

Illinois has landed the "Mali Masher." But this is more about Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard than the fact the Fighting Illini have secured a commitment from Ibrahima Djimde.

The superlatives have been thrown Jerrance Howard's way. The Illinois assistant coach, in a rather short period of time, has established himself as one of the elite recruiters in the country. And his value to the Illinois basketball program is so vital and obviously immeasurable, especially at a time when certain negativity has followed coach Bruce Weber's program of late.

With the Sunday morning commitment of Djimde, a West Virginia prep school player, Howard has now been the lead recruiter for all six incoming freshmen next year -- De La Salle's Mike Shaw, Orr's Mycheal Henry, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, St. Ignatius' Nnanna Egwu and Devin Langford out of Alabama -- and a senior transfer, former Bradley point guard Sam Maniscalco. Seven recruits? In one class?

That, folks, just doesn't happen. Do you realize the time commitment that goes into recruiting, landing and signing just one or two prospects in any single class while singling out others in younger classes? And so much for Illinois not being able to recruit the city of Chicago.

While Djimde may not bring the national ranking the others in the class will be able to put in the media guide, by all accounts he will be a key and pivotal piece. The description of Djimde, a 6-9, 240-pound true power forward, is what Illinois has lacked -- big, strong, physical post who plays hard and with a ton of energy. Who cares if his offense is lacking, so say those who have watched him. The native of Mali in Africa fills a monstrous void the Illinois program has been lacking.

How soon will his impact be felt? Who knows? He will be just a freshman. But because of what he is as a player, there are those around the Illinois program who really believe he could provide valuable minutes right away and make an impact sooner than later.

With the departure of Jereme Richmond, who would have been playing a ton of minutes next season at the 4-spot if he were still a part of the program, Illinois would have been scary thin up front in terms of bodies, experience and style of play needed at the power forward and center positions. Illinois went out and tried to land the ideal fit for what it needed, regardless of stature, ranking or who was recruiting him.

Howard will now re-charge the batteries and set his sights on the young talent budding in Illinois. He's licking his chops at the thought of recruiting the likes of Simeon's Jabari Parker, the Whitney Young trio of Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Tommy Hamilton and making more trips to Massachusetts to try and land point guard prospect Johnnie Vassar in the Class of 2014.

A lot of credit goes to Weber, who did go out on a limb when Howard was hired in 2007. Weber took some hits from critics (Weber has critics?) with his choice of Howard, who "wasn't a Chicago guy" and "didn't have the experience." Howard has more than passed the test and validated Weber's gut feeling four years ago.

There is definitely a part of Howard who is looking forward to the day when people realize and appreciate he's more than just a superstar recruiter. While still young and in need of additional seasoning in the coaching profession, he constantly is looking for ways to improve himself as a coach. Howard wants to get better, seeks feedback -- both positive and negative -- from veteran coaches who he showers with questions.

It's no wonder why Howard has been such a prized commodity and wanted by some of the elite college coaches and programs in the country -- some that have been public and some that have been behind the scenes. Howard has gone from a young, energetic, wet behind the ears assistant coach to a recruiting force and presence in the business. And his energy and passion are contagious.

He meets and exceeds so many of the standards that makes a great recruiter: tireless worker, connected, respected and as personable and easy to relate to as anyone out there. As one recruit's father recently told the Hoops Report: "He just makes you feel like you've known him for so long and are long-lost pals as soon as you meet him."

As with any business, there are some out there in the coaching profession with a bit of jealousy towards Howard. There are assistant coaches, some who have been on the job many years longer than Howard, who do get a little tired of the hype thrown his way and the attention he has received from a few of the elite college programs in the country. But those coaches also find it nearly impossible to dislike Howard. That's where the magnitude of Howard's personality -- the down-to-earth, fun-loving, lack of arrogance -- shines through.

As the whopping seven recruits in the Class of 2011 indicate, along with keeping Jereme Richmond committed (yes, we know how that worked out), landing Crandall Head and establishing strong relationships with so many young players in the state, Howard is not one of those hot flavors of the month. The résumé is slowly (well, maybe not slowly) and surely being built. And as his craft continues to emerge, Howard will make himself more marketable as a head coaching candidate sooner than later.

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Great stuff once again joe, but i agree that howard has raised the level of recruiting for illinois but i cant help feel that we as illini fans are just looking for something to get excited about. As I stated earlier the recruiting is getting better, but getting better from where? If you start with a wet towel with holes in it, and dry the towel its better but it is still a towel with holes in it. I cannot remember the last Illinois was even mentioned as a possible destination for one of the nation's top prospects probably Eric Gordon. Every year I wonder when the Illini will finally land that impact player from this great basketball state or one of the surronding states. This years recruiting class is probably the best in the last 10 years but illinois still missed out on the top 4 players in the state(Davis,Blackshear,Randle,thompson). Those are just some of my thoughts. Once again great stuff Joe

What value do Price and McClain bring to the program when it comes to recruiting?

Is there a reason for Weber to be looking to reshuffle his staff to bring more productivity (for lack of a better word) to the staff? Or, do Price and McClain "make up" for their recruiting "shortfalls" in other areas of their responsibilities?

Do you feel the program is putting too many of the recruiting targets in Howard's area of responsibility? The reason I ask this is not to say he isn't the right guy for the job, but it could weaken the program if he's were to leave for another position in another program.


Joe. Great reading material as always from you. But I had a question, if you don't mind. How about other staffs around the country? High-majors, mid-majors, etc. Is it usually one lead recruiter that does most of the recruiting and the others don't and put time in other areas? Thanks.

Joe: What are your thoughts on Bruce Weber as a recruiter now in comparison to before? I know you have written before about how good of a job Weber has done in getting more talent on campus but is it any different? Or is it just Jerrance? I have to believe the struggles recently are from lack of recruiting 4-5 years ago. Thanks and keep up the great work.


They should fire Webber! He is terrible. McClain even says that he is terrible. Our athletic director is TERRIBLE! We have so many alumni and so much money. Its just terrible. Keep this kid Howard and give him a huge raise and bring in the guy from Butler.

When! WHen are we going to join the elite programs?


This guy can't coach. He could not sign a player before Howard came on board. How do you have a terrible class after you play for the championship. Webber works hard? Who cares. He does not have any respect from Michael Jordan, his players nor his fellow coaches (on STAFF!).


Webber has stayed true to his character? Is there a NCAA National Character Tournament? Bobby Knight was a jerk, but the guy WON! We are terrible. Is everyone on crack? Someone feed these assistant coaches some beer at Kams and do some investigative reporting. The real story is that Webber is NOT respected. He cannot coach. He runs the same plays over and over. He is rigid, old fashioned and boring. Do you really think he is the one selling these kids? NO WAY. Its HOWARD. Come on Joe. Did you graduate from U of I? What is the excuse gonna be next year?



Illinois did not lose the 4 best players in the state. Michel Henry is the 2nd, if not, the best player in the state. I have no problem choosing Henry 1st. Bhaw and Thompson are about even, except Shaw is more skilled...... Abrams is one of the best Guards in the state. But you can turn a blind eye and rank them to benefit your arguement.

I'm not an Illini fan by any means (Illinois St. fan), but to say Weber isn't a good coach is wrong. The key to Weber's success is finding mentally tough players who are willing to play solid defense. He turned SIU into a nationally competitive program playing some of the ugliest basketball imaginable. The key to the Final Four team was their defensive cohesiveness. When he has mentally tough players he does great things.

tell the guy from 2 read the rankin more b4 he talks henry is ranked higher than than sam and randel on all the polls and close 2 blackshear not local but the national poll so relaz and b happy with the guys that want 2 plaY HERE AND MAKE US BETTER THANKS JOE for posting me

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on May 8, 2011 2:13 PM.

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