Illinois and coach John Groce are really trying to tap into that Simeon pipeline.
With Simeon star senior guard Kendrick Nunn already on board, might Illinois be able to snap up his running-mate in the backcourt? Groce and Illinois will welcome Simeon point guard Jaylon Tate to campus on Thursday for a visit. The 6-2 senior is now a target of Illinois, less than a week after Groce fell just short in securing top 20 national talent Demetrius Jackson out of Indiana.
No program brings a senior prospect to campus a month away from the signing period without making him a priority -- and offer? With that in mind, it would be surprising if an offer isn't extended Tate's way while on his visit to Illinois.
Illinois remains squarely in the mix with combo guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a sweet shooting, scoring 6-3 guard from Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Rathan-Mayes is among the top 25 prospects in the country and is down to Illinois, Connecticut and Florida State, the presumed leader. A decision from Rathan-Mayes is on the horizon.
But Groce needs ballhandling guards, particularly a point guard -- or two -- to best utilize the type of attack he wants to implement at Illinois. Groce and his staff have been in to watch Tate in Simeon's open gyms this fall.
As the Hoops Report pointed out in a blog last week on Tate, the stock of the once highly-valued lead guard has been topsy-turvy throughout his career. Recently, however, the stock has risen with his play this fall in open gyms. He's playing with more confidence and looks more comfortable. The more Tate has acclimated to Simeon and the coaching style of Robert Smith, the better he has become.
The Simeon to Illinois pipeline has been fruitful over the years, starting in the 1980s with Nick Anderson and Ervin Small, who were both part of an Illini Final Four team in 1988. Add in the all-time leading scorer in Illini history, Deon Thomas, along with Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner, Calvin Brock, Stan Simpson and Nunn, Illinois will have signed eight Simeon players. And make it nine if Illinois closes the deal on Tate.
Plus, Illinois has firmly placed Simeon sophomore D.J. Williams, a versatile 6-7 wing, as a recruiting priority in the Class of 2015.
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