By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Things are really beginning to fall into place for Bruce Weber and the University Of Illinois. After receiving three commitments from the class of 2009 in one day last Thursday, Weber kept the good times rolling today by securing a verbal commitment in the class of 2008 from 6'9 Stan Simpson from Simeon High School in Chicago. The commitment has been confirmed by Larry Butler of the Illinois Warriors, who is Simpson's AAU coach.
Simpson had taken an official visit to the Champaign campus the first weekend of October. Not only did he have a great visit, but it had been rumored that Simpson would return to Illinois this past weekend for Midnight Madness. While he did not do that, we became firmly convinced that Simpson would ultimately choose the Illini because of the fact that both Butler and Simeon head coach Robert Smith were pushing Illinois as Simpson's future college destination. That and the fact that Arkansas, which was the Illini's foremost competitor for Simpson, received a commitment from 6'8 class of 2008 prospect Brandon Moore from Holy Cross High School in New Orleans this past weekend.
Simpson's commitment undoubtedly gives coach Weber an abundance of front court players to build around down the road (Simpson, Brian Carlwell, Mike Tisdale, Richard Semrau, Billy Cole) and while the knock on Simpson is that he doesn't always play with intensity, we have reason to believe that when it is said and done Simpson could very well emerge as the best of the bunch.
Simpson is a solid back to the basket scorer who protects the ball well and has good shooting touch in the paint area and along the baseline. He also has the ability to run the floor and finish with authority, and can intimidate at the defensive end. This will be Simpson's first season at Simeon, as he transferred from Leo High School in Chicago this past summer. He showed astronomical improvement between his sophomore and junior years at Leo.
While Weber now has Simpson in the fold, there are still some concerns about Simpson's academic status as it would relate to his eligibility at Illinois. However, as we have indicated before, there are ways that Illinois can work around this issue and considering the position that Weber is now in recruiting-wise, he could probably even afford to redshirt Simpson should he be susceptible to the idea.
Simpson's commitment once again further illustrates that Larry Butler is clearly supportive of the Illini basketball program. This premise has been greatly strengthened by the recent hiring of Jerrance Howard as an assistant coach at Illinois. Simpson becomes Weber's first commitment from the 2008 class.