Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber, eager to rekindle the magic of 2005, is making a late but determined sales pitch to recruit senior point guard Chris Colvin of Whitney Young. And Colvin likes what he is hearing. He has added Illinois to his list of finalists--with Baylor, USC, Kentucky and Florida State.
"I had it down to three schools but I added Illinois and USC because they are the right fit," Colvin said. "Illinois and USC were my dream schools. But maybe they won't give me what I need. Maybe Baylor will have more of what I need.
"I like Illinois because I grew up watching Deron Williams and Dee Brown and Luther Head. I was very happy when they made it to the NCAA final. And I like USC because I love Los Angeles and I like to watch O.J. Mayo. I'm glad they looked at me again to see that I'm a pure point guard. Baylor, USC and Illinois will be three of my five official visits."
Colvin, a 6-3, 195-pounder, is a pure point guard. He thinks pass first, shot second. He has the mindset and leadership qualities of the players he admires most, NBA stars Deron Williams and Chris Paul. His mission is to run his team, to get his teammates involved, be vocal and put everyone in the position they are supposed to be in.
"Make everybody happy and they'll want to make you happy," he said. "I've been a point guard all my life. When I played, the ball was in my hands. I took it from there. It's my role. A lot of point guards think they have to be a scorer. But he doesn't necessarily have to score. He has to get everyone involved."
Colvin opened a lot of eyes and turned a lot of heads in July when he attended the Reebok camp in Philadelphia. Afterward, Illinois and USC called right away. He figures to hear from more big-time programs before he begins to make official visits in September and arrives at a final decision.
"I hadn't heard from them in a while but they run three-guard offenses and I was glad to hear from them," Colvin said. "It showed I was doing what I wanted to do, run a team. A lot of people at the camp were thinking about scoring. But I stood out by getting my teammates involved."
Weber has recruited some outstanding guards. But D.J. Richardson of Peoria Central, Brandon Paul of Warren, Joseph Bertrand of Sterling and Crandall Head of Crane aren't pure point guards. Colvin is the leader he is looking for.
"Richardson may be the No. 1 player in the class of 2009 in Illinois. But he and Paul are 2 guards. Their skill set is more of a 2 guard," said Brian Stinnette of Chicagohoops.com. "When I think of a combo guard, I think of someone who doesn't totally have point guard skills to set up teammates and distribute the ball. Colvin is unique, strong and physical. He has the ability to run a team and not think shot first. He can dominate a game as a ball distributor."
Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, who has 28 years of experience in the game, said he never saw Isiah Thomas or Ronnie Lester, two of the best point guards ever produced in Illinois, but he said Colvin has the best point guard skills of anyone he has seen, more than Sherron Collins and James Randle.
"Now he can be considered a Player of the Year candidate in Illinois," Slaughter said. "He has the ability to break you down as a 6-3 point guard, not 5-9 or 5-10. He has a great ability to pass the ball and see things before they transpire, things that we can't comprehend."
Colvin will have plenty of chances to prove his skill. Whitney Young will rank among the top teams in Illinois in 2008-09. And the Dolphins will play an NBA-type schedule that includes national powerhouses DeMatha of Hyattsville, Md., Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif., and St. Benedict of New Jersey. Not to mention West Side rivals Marshall and Crane.
"It's irreplaceable to have a pure point guard," Slaughter said. "It is the most position on the floor if a kid takes pride in doing it. Colvin has to be our leader this year. He has to be the person to accept responsibility and motivate his teammates. He has to commit to competing every night."
Colvin is anxious to accept the challenge. Can he be another Deron Williams or Chris Paul or Jason Kidd or Steve Nash or Derrick Rose or Bob Cousy or Mo Cheeks or Magic Johnson?
"This isn't my senior year but life itself," Colvin said. "We have a big schedule ahead of us and I want to make a big impression. We don't just want to be a contender in the state but in the nation. A lot of people don't know us now but they will.
"What's the difference between me last year and this year? I had seniors ahead of me last year who were leaders. I followed them. But this is my team. I want to show the leadership that everyone is looking for."