By Joe Henricksen
While every fan of the University of Illinois sits and waits for every breaking tidbit of information regarding Simeon's Jabari Parker, there is other recruiting work to be done by Bruce Weber and his staff. And that includes locking up the state's top players in the loaded sophomore class.
Illinois has now offered talented sophomore Larry Austin of Springfield Lanphier. Austin, who is the No. 4 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2014 player rankings, had a productive summer as a part of the USA Basketball Men's under-16 National Team that competed in the FIBA Americas Under-16 Championships in Mexico this past June.
Austin was offered by Illinois on Wednesday, which becomes his second offer to date. Bradley offered Austin last month.
"These first two offers are humbling," says Austin. "Both are great schools, but I'm going to keep my options open. I don't have any time table in place for a decision."
Last winter, Austin averaged 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game as a freshman at Lanphier while shooting 54 percent from the field. The physical lead guard has made considerable strides in becoming a true point guard with good vision and developing playmaking skills. Austin's strength is that he's so strong in getting to the basket, both in the halfcourt and in the open floor. He attacks on both ends of the floor and is unselfish, defends and brings valuable intangibles to the point guard position.
While the knock on Austin has been his perimeter shot, his pull-up, mid-range game has become an effective part of his offensive game. There is work to be done in adding range and efficiency to his shot, but he's young and his mechanics are very workable.
While Parker remains the top recruiting priority for Illinois -- and virtually every program involved with him at this point -- there is no question the Class of 2014 is huge for the Fighting Illini basketball program. Weber and his staff now have targeted a future point guard in Austin, while committed to convincing both Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander that they can stay home and play together.