Illini Basketball Recruiting: The Best Is Yet To Come

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There are several factors which can account for the University Of Illinois' remarkable string of success with respect to basketball recruiting over the last year and a half. They include a more aggressive approach and philosophy, the addition of Jerrance Howard to the coaching staff, the building of stronger relationships with promiment AAU and high school coaches within the state of Illinois, and a lot more. However, despite now securing four commitments from the class of 2009 and three from the class of 2010, we think that this is only just the beginning. The class of 2011 in Illinois has a chance to go down as one of the best in recent memory. When one considers that the Illini are involved with several of the top prospects in that class and currently stand a more than reasonable chance with more than a few of them, it has to give any Illini basketball fans goose bumps with respect to what could potentially loom on the horizon.

We write this blog primarily in light of the most recent verbal commitment that Illini head basketball coach Bruce Weber received this past week from 6'10 class of 2010 center Meyers Leonard from Robinson High School in Robinson, IL. First of all, there is not one Chicago-area scout or so-called internet guru who has seen Leonard play yet, so anything you are getting from them in the way of a scouting report is hearsay. That is why we aren't even going to attempt to offer one of our own.

What we do know from listening to those who have seen Leonard is that is he is highly athletic, can run the floor and finish, and has a world of potential. That is the key word here--potential. With that being said, there is no question that Leonard could be a huge piece to the puzzle when it comes to measuring the success of the Fighting Illini's 2010 recruiting class--a class which as of now includes our #1 and #2 ranked prospects in the state in 6'7 Jereme Richmond and 6'4 Crandall Head.

The Illini's 2010 recruiting class comes on the heels of a spectacular 2009 recruiting class which includes three top in-state guards in D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand. Richardson and Paul are our #1 and #2 ranked prospects in Illinois from the 2009 class. And what is scary is that although the Illini are technically now out of scholarships in the class of 2010, they continue to recruit 6'3 Lenzelle Smith from Zion-Benton, who is our #3 ranked prospect in the class.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Illini could still find a way to add Smith to their 2010 recruiting haul. This is because an additional scholarship could open up if one of the current players on the Illini roster were to leave early for the NBA. If that were to happen 6'3 guard Demetri McCamey would appear to be the most likely candidate.

But now on to the really exciting stuff. The Illini have six scholarships to give in the class of 2011, which might be the most talented class that the state of Illinois has seen since the class of 1998. Not only that, but Illini head coach Bruce Weber and his hard-working assistants are involved with virtually all of the top prospects in that class. In fact, they could be very close to landing a commitment in the not too distant future from 6'2 guard Chasson Randle from Rock Island. Assistant coach Jay Price has been working overtime throughout the month of July when it comes to his recruitment of Randle, having watched him play both with his high school team at the Rock Island Summer Shootout and on the AAU circuit with the Illinois Wolves.

The question that beckons from all of this is what has enabled Weber and his coaching staff to turn things around recruiting-wise when two years ago things looked as bleak as they could possibly be after the Eric Gordon decommitment? We believe that the answer to this lies in several factors, with all of them being equally instrumental.

First of all, after Gordon's decommitment, Weber took it upon himself to incorporate a more aggressive recruiting approach. It includes identifying recruitable prospects at an early age, staying on them, and extending scholarship offers much earlier in the process. There is no question that this approach has paid off when one looks at the recent results. At the time that Illinois was recruiting Gordon, the bottom line is that there was no plan B (over the course of time Weber has said this himself). Now the Illini not only have a plan B when it comes to the 2009, 2010 and 2011 classes, they even have a plan C and in some cases a plan D.

Another factor which has largely accounted for the Illini's recent recruiting success was Weber's hiring of Jerrance Howard as an assistant coach. As we have stated before, Howard has an upbeat personality and a natural passion and enthusiasm for Illini basketball which immediately connects with recruits. He also has developed strong relationships with virtually all of the most influential AAU coaches in the state of Illinois, all of whom are huge players when it comes to the recruiting process of many of the state's top prospects. And last but certainly not least, he has a work ethic which is second to none.

It is also plain to see how Howard's influence has rubbed off on Weber himself and the rest of the Illini coaching staff. In the past Weber was often content to watch games from the rafters. Not any more, as he (as well as Howard and Price) are front and center for any recruit that they are in the gym to see. Again, these are the things that any recruit (as well as his family) immediately notices.

Critics who never get out of their office and want to nitpick will make one believe that Weber still doesn't have a quality point guard amongst all of the recruits he has landed in either the 2009 or 2010 classes. What makes that opinion a completely ignorant one is that most anyone who has seen either Richardson, Paul, or Bertrand play on a consistent basis (including us) will tell you that while none of them may be natural point guards, they are all capable of playing that position and none of them will hurt you when doing so. Perhaps these people also forget that Crandall Head is more than capable of assuming that role if necessary.

In spite of all of this, we think that it is the 2011 class which will undoubtedly dictate how good of a basketball team the Illini can be in the years ahead. In light of everything that we have mentioned, it is plain to see that the possibilities are endless. Ultimately, Weber and his staff would like to land at least two of the following three prospects from amongst 6'7 Mike Shaw from De LaSalle, 6'5 Wayne Blackshear from Curie or 6'5 Sam Thompson from Whitney Young. And then they would like to get at least one from either Randle, 5'10 Donivine Stewart from Bartonville Limestone or 6'0 Tracy Abrams from Mt. Carmel. With the current momentum that Weber and company have going for them, this scenario is not out of the realm of possibility. If it happens, what will the critics then have to say?


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8 Comments

Wow, such a huge state as Illinois and it only has one major college basketball team. It just hasn't been the same since the other team from the always powerful Big East left town. They must have otherwise all the 'recruiting experts' would be projecting their prospects as well I would imagine. Where do I sign up for your Illini recruiting daily?

Roy & Harv Respond:

Just stating the facts. We take it that you aren't an Illini fan? That's really too bad!

Hey JT, what has DePaul done recently on the recruiting trail to merit the recruiting coverage that feel so slighted out of? You are right about one thing; the state of Illinois has only one major college basketball team.

I have degrees from both Illinois and DePaul and am a fan of both, but we as DePaul fans must face it that we have done very little to garner attention. Hell BU, ISU and SIU fans have far more to complain about.

FACTS OVERLOOKED- BRADLEY UNIVERSITY HAD A YOUNG MAN
DRAFTED IN THE FIRST ROUND A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO!
HE WAS JUST SIGNED TO A FREE-AGENT CONTRACT BY THE
CELTICS!
DEPAUL UNIVERSITY- WILSON CHANDLER WAS DRAFTED IN THE
FIRST ROUND A YEAR AGO BY THE KNICKS!
ILLINOIS STATE- HAS THE YOUNG MAN FROM PHILLIPS H.S.
IN CHICAGO, WHO MAY GET DRAFTED NEXT SEASON!
SIU- JUST SIGNED PLAYER OF THE YEAR FROM HOMEWOOD-
FLOSSMOOR AND THE YOUNG MAN FROM MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL!
NIU HAS REVAMPED ITS PROGRAM, THEY BROUGHT IN THE COACH
FROM COLORADO!
UIC WITH COACH JIMMY COLLINS CONTINUES TO BE A SUCCESS-
FUL PROGRAM!
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY BATTLES NIGHT IN AND NIGHT OUT!
THESE ARE ALL DIVISION 1 PROGRAMS, WE KNOW THAT ILLINOIS IS IN THE BIG 10, BUT I THINK YOU WOULD AGREE
THAT PLAYING AND EARNING A DEGREE FROM THE SCHOOLS I
NAMED IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF, IT IS TRULY AN HONOR
TO PLAY FOR THESE INSTITUTIONS!

Phil

caps lock dude. seriously. (or the ST should stop posting his notes, they are irritating to read)

every single time, all you are doing in your posts is shouting, and you know what, no one is listening dude, especially when you say stuff like "UIC . . . continues to be a successful program"

UIC since 1996,
- the record is 194-171
- only 4 20-win seasons in 11 years
- no NCAA appearances since 2003

so if you are going to keep shouting, at least make sense when you do it!

Well that's all fine and good. Seems like Illinois is doing a better job in the State. I feel they have recruited too many guards and not enough big men. And Yes Phil must not have a caps lock on his computer. To each his own though.

Hello gentlemen, I do believe when you only give major coverage or attention to Illinois it does detract from the other schools in state. Let's be honest alot of potential recruits read and write blogs and follow media coverage as much as we do. And like it or not what they perceive from reading articles etc.. to be the school with most media coverage or potential to get them media coverage from time to time tends to sway there decision. Honestly, some recruit is probably reading you guys comments right now.

The reason I make that point is because I live in Atlanta, and down here it is known that Illinois as a state is widely regarded as one of the best states and the chicago area as the best city for High school basketball. And its funny to see a place that had the highest percentage of NBA players not promote all its local universities.

Look at it like the states of Texas and Florida do in football they promote all they're institutions thus influencing quality in state talent to stay at home. Which in turns give those states multiple quality collegiate teams. Personally, I think the states of illinois, Ohio and Pennyslvania are as a talented as any state in the south in football and has as much speed. Trust me I moved south from the midwest in 9th grade and was a top football and track athlete in the metro atlanta area that went on to play in the SEC. But, let me stay focused because the SEC vs. BIG 10 is another issue(I think they're 1 and 2 but the Big 10 traditionally is better, because until the mid to late 90's the SEC was primarily a consistant one team conference, Alabama being that team.)!

Back to the issue at hand I personally think there is no reason why their shouldn't be at least 3 or 4 ncaa tournament caliber teams coming from your state period when you look at the abundance of quality players that come out of your state. Look at SIU who, until this years recruiting class, has been successful with 3rd tier Illinois players. And to the individual who mentioned that Depaul must have left the state, I concur. But I feel its to know fault of their own. They need to focus on attaining local players and comitting local players, I mean lets be honest here, even Northwestern (which I believe will be a Tournament team in 2 years) is out recruiting them. The Bottom line is that I see the great state of Illinois supplying other conferences (Big East & ACC) and powerhouse teams (Duke, UNC,Kansas. Arizona etc.) with talent yet natives complain about the lack of recruits staying at home. It all boyles down to pride and until people as they do for football in the midwest and in the south parade their school colors, outfits, hats etc.. and speak positively about their institutions of choice kids will continue to leave the state!

Honestly, think about it, these kids live in the same communities as you or I and they are very observant so if they see you or your friends prideful..well you get the point. But if you don't start the movement of exuding school and state pride why should these kids. So, my proposal to the gentleman who likes Depaul,start wearing your gear and going to some summer tournaments where potential recruits are playing and talk to people about the great school of Depaul. Trust me, it will work because like a great SEC college football recruiter told me-"the best recruiters are the communities and those proud alums who are in the environs of a potential recruits"!

And to potential recruits reading this, Stand up make your home state colleges better, have some pride in where your from cause it help make who you are..so in the words of your generation Represent!!!!!! Cause if you guys stay home and prove how great your state's basketball is and bring shine to more than the Illini the nation will take notice period!!!! By the way I know my sermon is a little off subject and extremely long, I seem to get very passionate about things of this nature-so forgive me.

Roy & Harv Respond:

Very interesting comments. Allow us to point out a couple of things: 1) We highly doubt that any recruit bases a college decision on anything that we write in any of our blogs. 2) if you were to frequent our web site on a regular basis, you would immediately realize that our recruiting coverage is not geared solely to the University of Illinois. We highly recommend that you take a look at the following story on our site for starters: http://ilprepbullseye.com/page24.html.

Roy & Harv, I truely believe you are doing great work. I was simply making referrence to the other blogger who based on his perception felt that there was too much bias given to just the Illini situation. Honestly, whether you choose to believe it or not your work is often viewed by potential recruits and basketball enthusiast alike. To your point, I don't believe that your blogger is the sole motivating factor in a recruits school choice, but today's tech savy recruits/kids are smarter than in my day and often are very thorough in information gathering. Plus, I know for a fact by meeting two cousins who are very talented in basketball and are being recruited by schools down here and supposedly up there who are originally from Evanston but moved here at 12 and 13( a tradition I hear in which native Evanstonians with great talent leave the town, I.E. Jeremy Richmond, Chris Colvin and for us Old Schoolers Aaron Williams who played for the NBA Nets) they read your blogger/site because you guys "keep it real"! But bottom line there is too much talent there and for us down here who like good basketball and have to suffer through the Hawks and only a few quality teams on the high school level, we are truely envious. Keep up the good work it doesn't go unnoticed!


Roy & Harv Respond:

You make some great points and we thank you for your comments. They are most appreciated--more so than you can imagine.

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This page contains a single entry by Roy & Harv Schmidt published on August 1, 2008 4:39 PM.

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