Illinois coach John Groce and his staff have reeled in quite a collection of solid, balanced talent in 16 months on the job.
There is Rayvonte Rice, the 17 points-a-game transfer from Drake, who will be eligible to play this season after sitting out last year.
There is the five-man recruiting class brought in this year, led by Simeon product Kendrick Nunn, one of the top 75 players in the country in the Class of 2013.
There are three transfers -- Darius Paul (10.4 ppg as a freshman at Western Michigan), Ahmad Starks (a 1,000 point scorer at Oregon State) and Aaron Cosby (12.6 ppg as a sophomore at Seton Hall) -- who have each already averaged double figures at the Division I level in their career.
But Groce has now landed his first consensus top 50 prospect as Leron Black, a 6-7 forward from Memphis (White Station), has committed to Illinois. Black is currently ranked No. 46 in the country by Scout.com, No. 36 by ESPN.com and No. 22 by Rivals.com. He chose Illinois over Baylor, Tennessee, Indiana and a host of other high-major programs.
Black. who drove to Champaign with his family and took his official visit to Illinois this weekend, brings a lot to the Illinois program and checks off a few boxes in the need categories, beginning with the fact he's the highest ranked recruit headed to Illinois since Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard in the Class of 2010. That will bring headlines, but he's such a strong piece for the program in so many ways as it's clearly a momentum builder for Groce and Illinois.
Black's character has been discussed at length from those who have recruited him and from those in the Memphis area. That's always a bonus in building a program. But he brings so much as a player, from his rebounding prowess in and out of his area to his natural ability to play in traffic and through contact. He runs the floor like a deer and flourishes in transition as a finisher. More than anything, though, Black impresses with his energy level and high motor.
He joins Champaign Centennial's 6-9 Michael Finke in Illinois' Class of 2014 recruiting class, which is a class Illinois hopes to add to with either Curie's Cliff Alexander or point guard Quentin Snider out of Louisville.
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