By Roy & Harv Schmidt
With Iman Shumpert, Stan Simpson and Josh Crittle all having offered verbal commitments over the past couple of weeks, most all of the top-tier talent in Illinois from the class of 2008 is now off the board. Forget the fact that the Fall signing period is still over two weeks away. A question that beckons is "What will be available in the spring?" As of now the answer appears to be "Not much", as it looks like slim pickings.
Prior to their commitments, Shumpert, Simpson and Crittle were to the top three prospects in the 2008 class from Illinois who were still undecided. With all of them now in the fold, most all of the remaining uncommitted prospects from this class are mid or low major Division One recruits. In fact, the only one left who is currently receiving high major attention is 6'3 point guard Verdell Jones from Central High School in Champaign, IL. Jones' primary interest at this level has come from Minnesota and Kentucky, who have both offered scholarships. Jones has also taken visits to both schools.
However, one gets the feeling that if the University Of Illinois decides to make Jones a recruiting priority over the next few months, that they could stand a reasonable chance of landing him. This could especially happen if Jones enjoys a terrific senior season at Champaign Central. Remember, Illinois still has scholarships to fill in the 2008 class. Of course, this scenario would be contingent on Jones waiting until the spring before making a decision.
After Jones, the top two uncommitted prospects in Illinois from the class of 2008 are 6'2 guard Jeremy Montgomery from Lincoln Park High School in Chicago and 6'3 guard Dion Dixon from Crane High School in Chicago. Both Montgomery and Dixon have received scholarships offers from various schools in the Mid-American Conference and continue to be recruited hard by those schools. Dixon is also drawing heavy interest from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Colorado.
What all of this once again indicates is the accelerated pace that college basketball recruiting continues to take. The bottom line is that most Division One programs, especially high majors, can no longer afford to wait on recruits who choose to make last second decisions. That is why you see more and more schools offering scholarships to recruits at an earlier age, as well as flocking to open gyms to evaluate prospects before some of them have even played a high school basketball game.
Getting back to those players from Illinois' class of 2008 who are still available, perhaps one (or more) of them will "blow up" this season and as a result sign with a school that is at a higher level than where we currently project them. However, rarely do you see a player catapult to elite status this late in the game. Players like Patrick Beverley, who ended up signing with Arkansas primarily as the result of a spectacular senior year, are the exception rather than the norm. With that being said, here is to hoping that those programs that are still scrambling to fill out their 2008 recruiting classes are able to find that "diamond in the rough."