As always, some members of the lunatic fringe of Illini Nation are in denial. Their version of history is so skewered that they think the slush fund scandal had something to do with a flood in Boneyard Creek.
Now they insist Illinois never seriously recruited Derrick Rose because, they allege, his older brother Reggie already had worked out a deal with Memphis coach John Calipari. It was similar to the conspiracy theory they alleged when Sherron Collins opted for Kansas because Crane coach Anthony Longstreet worked out a deal with Kansas coach Bill Self.
In other words, Illinois doesn't lose players; they get stolen by other colleges. If you buy into that kind of paranoia, you don't have to be an alumnus to understand why Illinois has, until basketball coach Bruce Weber picked up on the same recruiting philosophy that Calipari used to lure Rose to Memphis, rarely been in the mix for some of the nation's top-rated prospects.
"Rose was interested in Illinois. That's why he visited twice," said longtime Chicago Sun-Times reporter Clyde Travis, who has been close to the Rose family since Reggie was an All-State player at Hubbard in 1993.
But Memphis was so far ahead of Illinois that most observers felt it was a done deal. Calipari had jumped on the Rose bandwagon from the time Derrick was a sophomore. He was the first college coach to acknowledge that Reggie was the one who was running the show, not Simeon coach Robert Smith or former coach Bob Hambric. Others didn't accept the reality of it all. It put Calipari far ahead of the field.
At first, Derrick favored North Carolina. But Illinois as closer to home and he was aware of all of the former Simeon stars--Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Ervin Small, Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner, Calvin Brock--who had attended and enjoyed their experience at Illinois. Hambric always preached that his players should attend a state school.
However, Illinois shot itself in the foot. On his first visit, Derrick felt the Illini had blown him off. His feelings were hurt when star player Dee Brown, who was supposed to be his escort, didn't show up. Later, Derrick learned that Brown was partying.
Travis personally persuaded Rose to make a second visit to the campus. "He could have gone to Illinois," he said.
"Anytime you don't land the best player in a class and you are the major basketball program in the state that player lives in, it is a recruiting miss," said recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen of City/Suburban Hoops Report. "However, there were circumstances surrounding that recruitment that I think were out of the hands of Weber and his staff."
Some critics argue that Illinois was never, ever going to sign Rose, that they knew it but had to try to stay involved to save face or look foolish for not recruiting the state's best player. But others disagree.
"We believe that Derrick Rose always had more than a passing interest in Illinois. It was his brother (Reggie) and his entourage who did not," said recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.
"In the beginning, the Illini coaching staff recruited Rose extremely hard and considered him a high priority. However, after time passed and they understood all of the factors that were entering into the recruitment, they also realized that Rose was slipping away. They could not have handled the situation any differently than they did.
"In the end, it doesn't matter. Based on how their 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes have panned out, we would say that things have worked out just fine."