By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Oh, boy--we wonder what all of the Bruce Weber critics are saying now! Ever since Weber took the head coaching job at the University Of Illinois, no coach in college basketball has been under more constant scrutiny for perceived recruiting inefficiencies. Weber and the Illini have gone a long way towards silencing all of the critics by receiving verbal commitments from two of the top prospects in Illinois from the class of 2009--6'3 D.J. Richardson from Central High School in Peoria, IL and 6'3 Brandon Paul from Warren Township High School in Gurnee, IL.
Richardson chose Illinois over a host of other schools, including Ohio State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, North Carolina State and Marquette. He had announced recently that he had "cut" his list to 10 schools but we knew that was a crock. As we have stated repeatedly, listing as many as 10 schools does not constitute narrowing a recruiting list.
While we also knew that Illinois was in great shape with Richardson, primarily because assistant coach Jerrance Howard is a Peoria Central alum, we did not think that Richardson would be announcing this quickly. Richardson himself had said that he would not be making a final decision regarding his recruitment until the end of his junior season. However, there had been hints dropped that Richardson was ready to commit to the Illini, most notably by Larry Butler, the AAU coach of the Illinois Warriors, who had been quoted in the Champaign News-Gazette as saying that Richardson would render a commitment to Illinois before the start of this high school season. Howard played his AAU ball for Butler and the Warriors.
There is no question that Richardson has the ability to be the #1 player in Illinois from the class of 2009 when it is all said and done. He has explosive one-on-one ability, as he has great quickness, outstanding athleticism and the ability to get to the basket almost at will. Richardson has also greatly improved his ball handling skills and shooting range and has become a leader on the floor.
Paul remains our mystery man in the class of 2009, as we admittedly have not yet had an opportunity to get a good look at him. However, he put himself on the map over the summer with an outstanding performance at the NIKE Main Event in Las Vegas in July and has drawn rave reviews from several other evaluators. In addition to the Illini, Paul had also received scholarship offers from Northwestern, Loyola-Chicago, and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Kudos must go to Weber and all of his assistants on an outstanding job. And the most exciting thing for Illini fans is that Weber and company are far from being done. In addition to Richardson and Paul, we also believe that the Illini could be in great shape with 6'9 Stan Simpson from Simeon High School in Chicago, as well as 6'4 Joe Bertrand from Sterling High School in Sterling, IL and they are also quite strong with 6'2 class of 2010 prospect Anthony Johnson from Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Richardson, Paul and Johnson will all be in Champaign for the Illini's midnight madness this weekend, as will 6'6 class of 2010 commit Jereme Richmond from Waukegan High School in Waukegan, IL and 6'5 class of 2009 prospect Nik Garcia from Niles West High School in Skokie, IL.
... At the present time absolutely NOTHING has been confirmed regarding the possibility of 6'3 class of 2009 prospect Diamond Taylor transferring from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, IL to Bolingbrook High School in Bolingbrook, IL. In fact, multiple sources have told us that as of now Taylor is still at St. Joseph and that right now nothing is official. At the same time, there are reasons to believe that the transfer could happen, as Taylor does live in Bolingbrook. We hope to obtain more information concerning this situation over the next couple of days.
... As first hinted at by Illinois Prep Bulls-eye in our last recruiting blurbs update, Josh Crittle, the 6'8 forward from Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago, has narrowed his college choices to either Minnesota or Oregon. We would not be the least bit surprised to see Crittle reach a decision as early as the beginning of next week.
Continue to check in with Illinois Prep Bulls-eye for all of the latest as it pertains to recruiting and high school basketball in Illinois.