Now that didn't take long.
Forget the long-drawn-out recruitment. Jaylon Tate of Simeon knew what he wanted, heard what he wanted and quickly snatched up what Illinois coach John Groce had to offer, which was an opportunity to play in the Big Ten. The 6-2 point guard committed to Illinois after visiting the campus on Thursday and will join Simeon teammate Kendrick Nunn in Champaign next year.
The Illinois pursuit of Tate was fast and furious. Tate, who was gaining some attention from higher-level programs during fall open gyms, felt there was no need to wait.
"I love the school, the program and the coaching staff," says Tate. "It felt right immediately. This is a place I really want to be. Both coach Groce and coach [Paris] Parham made me feel really comfortable. They told me I'm their guy, they believe in me, and that they just want me to go play my game."
Illinois, desperately in need of a point guard, had targeted top 20 national talent Demetrius Jackson out of Indiana. Jackson's recruitment went down to the wire, but he selected Notre Dame last week. Tate quickly entered the picture for Illinois as the ballhandling guard Groce needs for his offense.
"I've watched Ohio and coach Groce's teams, and the style of play was definitely something I like and want to play in," Tate pointed out. "I have seen what coach Groce has done with his guards. Now I get to go play in that style and do so with Kendrick"
Tate actually had Ohio high on his list, taking an official visit to the MAC program last weekend. He had an official visit set up with Western Kentucky later this month. Tate, however, is thrilled with the decision.
"I'm really excited," Tate added. "It shows me all the hard work I've put in has paid off. I kept working and working."
Last year was an adjustment period for Tate, learning a new system and a new way of going about things at Simeon. Now he's carrying a quiet confidence while still possessing the point guard essentials -- handling the ball efficiently, solid court vision and playing like a true point guard.
"I'm a lot more comfortable and confident now after spending a year at Simeon," says Tate, who transferred to Simeon last year after playing his first two years at De La Salle. "It takes time to get used to a new system, get used to playing with new players and different coaches. Coach Rob [Smith] is a lot different than what I was used to at De La Salle. Now I'm more familiar with it all. And I'm the lead guard now."
Simeon coach Robert Smith sees the difference and is ready to put the ball in his hands as his starting point guard.
"He knows and understands the system now," says Smith. "To his credit, he came in last year and took a back seat to some others. Now it's his team. He's running the show at the point guard position."
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 the Flying Illini Final Four team. Add in the all-time leading scorer in Illini history, Deon Thomas, along with Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner, Calvin Brock, Stan Simpson -- and now Nunn and Tate -- and Illinois will have signed nine Simeon players this November.
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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