By Michael O'Brien

The state of Illinois recruiting

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The Fighting Illini could miss out on all four of the top in-state recruits...

Nothing is final yet (and things can change quickly in the recruiting world) but it is certainly looking like none of the top three top remaining in-state recruits will choose Illinois.

Here's a breakdown of the three situations:

Matt Humphrey, Hales Franciscan: First off the rumors aren't true. Humphrey has not committed to Oregon yet. He confirmed that today on the way to the Peach Jam. He's a bright, personable kid that handled his struggles last season with a lot of class and dignity. It's well known that his father attended Illinois and Matt himself was very interested in Illinois during the first three years of his high school career. Illinois may have waited too long to make an offer. Now, sources at Hales say Oregon is the clear leader. Joevan Catron, a teammate of Humphrey and Farragut's Michael Dunigan on the Meanstreets AAU team, had a very positive experience with Ernie Kent and the Ducks this past season, earning some nice minutes on a Elite Eight team. For some reason, Bruce Weber and his staff have been unable to make any inroads with Tai Streets' Meanstreets program.

Michael Dunigan, Farragut: Like Humphrey, his close friend, Dunigan is a terrific student and a solid kid with a strong family behind him. He's also the one player from the class of 2008 that has a real shot at an NBA career. Many big men don't even start to develop into dominating forces until after high school (Roy Hibbert and Patrick O'Bryant for example). The important thing is Dunigan keeps improving. It's tough to get a real handle on Dunigan's recruitment, but popular opinion long had Georgetown as his leader. Now it looks like Oregon is making a serious run at him, however it may be too far from home. There are rumors that Florida State now has a serious shot, but I haven't heard anyone mention Illinois recently.

Iman Shumpert, Oak Park: At this time last year, no one would have predicted that Shumpert would earn an offer from North Carolina. Well, that's just what he went out and did this spring. Shumpert has been vocal about his love of the ACC, and that's when Clemson and Georgia Tech were after him. It's hard to imagine him turning down the Tar Heels.

There is a silver lining for Illinois. Shumpert, Dunigan and Humphrey aren't instant impact program changing type players. They will be solid college players, maybe even stars, but they won't have Derrick Rose/Sherron Collins type freshman years. PR wise, it may hurt for Weber and his staff to miss out on all three, but there is no doubt they will be able to find similarly talented players somewhere else in the country.

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That's not much of a silver lining for Illinois...

Illinois hasn't been able to get the Chicago kids, with few exceptions, for quite some time. I don't think it is all about Coach Weber. Any thoughts about why UI can't seem to have success with recruits from Chicago?

O'Brien responds: Seems to be a number of factors. To me, the real problem isn't the guys that have spurned Illinois. It's the players Illinois passed on. Jerel McNeal and Brandon Ewing would be a very nice backcourt right now. Ewing is one of the leading scorers in the nation (among returning players) and most everyone knows about McNeal. Both players told me, during their recruitment, that they wanted to go to Illinois.

So, help me out here...

Who's the Top 15 ranked kid "similar" to Shumpert that Weber will easily be able to recover from? I forgot that Weber consistently gets 5 star kids from out of state. But, my mind is drawing on blank on Top 15 kids that have interest in UI that will easily soften the blow of losing Shumpert. Can you please highlight who you are thinking of?

O'Brien: Well, just off the top of my head, there is Suggs. And 49 of Scout's top 100 are uncommitted. This is a pretty weak national class, there isn't much of a difference between anyone after the top four or five. As far as having any interest in Illinois, that's the coaching staffs job.

How is it that Illinois waited too long to offer Humphrey but Oregon didnt? So, he was so bitter that he had to wait a bit longer to get an offer to his favorite school, that he is now considering another school altogether that recently got involved? AND his parents went there?!?! Something doesnt sound right about that.

And then there is Shumpert - who had appreciated the schools that have followed him from the beginning, but now wants to go to the school that likely just started following him since his rise top the top? Doesn't make any more sense.

This business is ugly, and it stings to be a fan of illinois schools. These guys grow up in Chicago, and they are supported and develop here, then they run off to help schools like UNC or Duke or Kansas (within states that produce very little talent) earn all the glory. I guess I'll start watching the NBA.

Weber must go.
Get me someone who can recruit. B Web is a joke.

Mike: Solid work, as always. My question is where do you think Shumpert ends up? The Illini fan sites have been hinting at a "silent verbal" from Shumpert to Illinois, with his interest in UNC only being to help drive his ranking up. Fact or fiction?

O'Brien responds: Ryan, I'm not going to pretend to be any kind of expert on Shumpert. I've known Dunigan and Humphrey since they were freshman, and since they are city kids, a lot of my usual sources have information on them. I'm just not that connected with Shumpert. But I thought it was interesting to read his comments before and after his Ilinois visit. Before he left he talked about hoping to make a connection with Weber, like he had with a couple other coaches when he went on visits. In the interview I read after the visit, it didn't sound like that had happened. And he was still praising the ACC.

Weber has no been able to capitalize from the '05 final four, what makes anyone think he'll be able to recruit once they find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. The writing is on the wall. The worst thing that can happen for this program is that he has average results and sticks around for an extended period. This would really hurt the program long term.

Great article Mike, it is nice to finally see Weber get called out in the press. Weber apologists have been very vocal the past few years; lately it doesn't seem like they have a leg to stand on. Whoops...Bruce did it again!!

Not a leg to stand on? How about this? 4 years at Illinois: 112-28. The most wins for any team in the nation over that span. Our first trip to the National Championship Game? Last two years at SIU, a trip to the sweet 16 and the tourney. Last years recruiting class ranked top 25 nationally. All done the right way. Let's face facts, these kids are being driven by AAU coaches and hangers on, all of whom are telling them they are going to be stars and NBA millionaires. Weber is telling them the truth. Come to Illinois, get a great education to last a lifetime, work hard and we go to the tourney every year. If that's not enough then go elsewhere. I'm tired of coddled immature 16 and 17 year olds thinking life owes them something because they can play a sport. And I can promise you I am in the growth demographic about that belief. Go to whatever school you want. But if you leave Illinois because someone with their own agenda says it's the thing to do, look at where their advice got others. Then compare that to the U of I,where Weber's players graduate at the highest levels in the country, and where that degree will open more doors here then any other.

Again I think it's most important to look at where we are at and where are we heading. If you think it's positive, then I have some ocean front property to sell you in Arizona. Weber inherited a top 5 team in the country. Illinois Basketball was a top 25 team year in and year out. These excuses are getting tiresome, these are probably the same individuals who still support Bush in the war in Iraq. My biggest issue is Weber inability to do sopmething about the situation. The assistants are NOT getting the job done and Weber has done NOTHING to shake them up.

A lot of people know what the problem is with Illinois basketball but don't want to admit it. The main reason that most of these kids are bypassing U of I is because Bruce Weber is not guaranteeing them any playing time coming right in. Most of us know that Weber inherited the team he had that went to the championship game and the reason that they went is because Weber is better with X's and O's than Bill Self was but Self is the better recruiter. When these kids are coming out of high school, they want to be able to play right away, not sit on the bench and develop their skills. These kids have one goal in mind and that is going to the NBA, the only thing that Weber will guarantee them is a quality education. Now I'm not saying if that is a good or bad thing but we will never get an elite player or even a top tier player to go to U of I, if they are not promised minutes. Calvin Brock won Illinois player of the year, his senior season at Simeon and still hasn't cracked the starting line up, you think kids aren't keeping track of this. Memphis told Derrick that the Tigers would be his team from the day he stepped on campus, so guess what school he chose.

Top 5 program nationally? What planet are you on? In Self's last year at Illinois we lost in the round of 32. Not exactly top 5. In Weber's first year we went to the sweet 16, losing to Duke. Then in his 2d year we went to the NC game. I think you've been spending too much time in the sun yourself. We lost out on Wright, who was going to Illinois until the last possible moment, and know says he went to Kansas because I had to take care of my family. What does that mean? We lost Collins, who said it was between Ill. and Iowa, then goes to KU at the last second. One of those two never even visited Lawrence before committing. We missed on Rose who is a one and done. And finally, we missed on Turner, who one day before he committed to Ohio St., said he was a heavy Illinois lean. The only clean recruit we missed on,in my opinion, that we should have taken, was Beverly. And he didn't send his transcripts. So give me a break. You failed to acknowledge that this year's recruiting class is top 25, or that Weber has a better record than Self over these 4 years. Or that Weber took a SIU team with minimal talent to the sweet 16. I like our future very much, and I like a guy who is a coach and not a "buddy". Ask Luther Head what Weber means to him.

Nobody is saying that Bruce isn't good with these kids when he has them, but he does need to find a way to get some of them in the door, but not at the cost of integrity. For what ever reason, he just hasn't been good at selling the program. If he is maily promising them a good education as incentive, then he clearly doesn't understand his target market. If you are looking to go to school to play ball, as a 17 year old your first desire is on the hardwood. Sure you may want a solid education, but at 17 you aren't really thinking past your first few years in college, you are just excited about the experience. Bruce needs to focus on what these kids want to hear (baskball) without lying to them. If they have a good chance of starting then tell them that, its not like he is making guarantees if the kid doesn't live up to his end of the bargain. The good education piece will take care of itself the kids end up at UofI, so sell them on their basketball potential there.

All those veiled references to other schools offering recruits money or other incentives reeks of sour grapes. Show me the proof or shut your pie holes. Maybe some voice lessons would help improve BAM,s interaction with the kids he recruits.

The three and four star recruits of 2006 and 2007 haven't even had a chance to make an impact and the talk is all trash. 5-star Jereme Richmond has given a verbal, but you all focus on the 5-star "misses." The negative comments are ridiculous--flat-out ridiculous. You naysayers are an embarrassment to the true Illini fans, and rational human beings, in general. Of course, most of you have nothing better than to whack away at your keyboard attacking someting, or someone. With any luck, when it is time to celebrate Illini success, you'll already have jumped ship 'cause we don't need or want ya.

Yes, it's somewhat sour grapes, but unless you can honestly tell us that you believe that schools like Memphis are recruiting by the book, then I think you should "shut your pie hole."

However, I don't think dirty money is the problem. The problem is that Weber won't stroke these kids egos and make playing time promises like other coaches. And I'm OK with that.

COuld it be that Richmond's early commit is actually hurting us with Shumpert, Suggs, Liggins, etc.? They all play the same position, and they would be Juniors when Jerome got on campus?

Calvin Brock hasn't played much because he's not very good. He's not very strong and he struggles to get open looks. He and Rich McBride are examples of great high school players who fizzled in college.

For the long term health of the program, maybe its not such a good idea to get Chicago recruits. Champaign is only about two hours away from the city, a fairly easy drive. Luther Head, a Chicago product, had a visit from his friends and ended up in a situation that would have landed a non-athlete in jail. Ray Meyer in the early eighties recruited heavily from Chicago and had enough off court problems so that when Joey took over they pretty much stopped recruiting Chicago players. Kansas, UNC, Memphis are all far enough away that the Chicago baggage doesn't travel that far, giving those coaches an opportunity to develop the athlete's talents without worrying about what "friends" are going to take him off the straight and narrow. Bruce has enough problems controlling what he already has without picking up more headaches.

Whah, whah, whah. All Illinois fans do is whine, cry and blindly defend their lame coach, while accusing other schools of recruiting violations. weber took a team of someone else's players to the national title game and lost and hasn't done squat since, except loose out on recruit after recruit. but apparently he gets all those second-tier recruits 'the right way,' including the ones who get liquored up on tequilla, crash their car and then leave their friend for dead in the passenger seat. maybe you've grown too tired of harassing eric gordon that all you can do now is cry. grow up.

and let me cut this off at the pass: save your predictable lame comebacks of calling me an indiana fan for someone else, because i'm not.

I personally favor squeaky clean athletic programs at the junior high, high
school and college/university levels, so I guess that I am in favor of Bruce
Weber's approach to recruiting as contrasted with Bill Self's methods. This even though I must concede that Self can out-recruit Weber on any day of the week, while Weber can out-coach Self even while he is asleep. I don't believe
I would feel any pride in following the "best teams that money can buy", unless the teams were at the professional level.

We were the talk of the basketball world in 2005, we captured the fancy of people from coast to coast. Where is the program now? In other words, why have we been uable to capitalize on our previous incredible success? Please enlighten me.

Hey Jimmy Jam, You can stop your moronic references to the Carlwell incident. It was simply a manifestation of what we preach day in and day out to all young people. That terrible events can come out of situations when questionable judgement is used. Just because players from whatever team you happen to root for haven't been busted driving about town liquored up be darned does not mean that they don't do it, or that theres not other juvenile or idiotic behavior going on on and around campus that they are a part of, it just means that it hasn't been reported yet.

For you to reference that incident as though it has anything to do with the character of player that Ilinois normally recruits is idiotic and insensitive to both the Smith and Carlwell families. Confine your comments to the area of hoops.

As a recent U of I alum who is friends with past/present members of the team and student staff (including my roommate), I can say based on what I see/hear that Weber desperately needs a graduate recruiting assistant. Weber is not a great recruiter, and we know this, however the guy can outcoach all but maybe 5 coaches in D-1 basketball. However, Weber compounds his one major flaw (recruiting) by retainining a staff that does not help to balance/offset his only real weakness. There is not a single recruiting warrior on that staff, not a single assistant who can make the early positive inroads on a player by establishing contact which would then lead to a follow-up from Weber who would be able to already have a warmed-up prospect. The answer is nowhere on that staff and I really think Weber should consider hiring someone considerably younger in the graduate assistant mode who's main emphasis would be recruitment. A younger assistant that prospects would feel comfortable with could be a start. I would do the job myself if I could get paid for it or get a tuition waiver for grad school lol. It is perplexing that we failed to capitalize on the final four run and land a single blue chip prospect, outside of richardson, who I am not sold on. I think we will be a solid, NCAA-caliber team this year however I would not be surprised at all if we miss the tourney in part because of early season struggles. Last year we had Warren Carter and McBride at least READY if not ABLE to come in and score for us from the beginning of the year, beginning of the game. Granted Carter fell off 2nd halfs of games but he at least came in from the jump looking to score. Who will do that for us this year, where will our early points come from?? Pruitt? The JuCO kid? Smith?? Definitely not little MJ, I saw the team scrimmage a couple weeks ago, he looked overmatched, D-2 talent, I know mikes your dad but sorry kid you can't hack it at U of I. And Calvin Brock was shooting airballs all over the court (3 by count and I got there 10 mins into it.)

This is a make or break year, we got the coach and the potential to go deep (sweet 16/elite 8) or we can flameout early like this past season or worstcase scenario miss the postseason entirely (including NIT). This year will tell us a lot about illinois basketball and where it's headed and what kind of talent we can attract. Final 4 seems so long ago to me, and I was at the school then, imagine how far it seems in the head of some kid recruit?? We need a big year this year.

I read all the posts hating on him awhile back (essentially for being a teenager and making a young mistake, shame on everybody for acting like they were above such behavior) BUT I know Jamar and I see him working his game everyday. I think he might have a breakout year this year. People forget that the coaching staff was legitimately worried prior to last season that he might have a HUGE season in 06-07 and then take his shot and luther head-esque game to the NBA after 2 years, but injuries and off the court stuff derailed him.

If he is healthy this year, watch out, he could light up the scoreboard. Pruit is decent, overrated but he functions for a college big man. Frazier is a good point guard. Meachem can shoot and has been working on his PG game, looked good in the scrimmage. The Juco Kid from Oklahoma is a BEAST, he should be our starting 4 from game-1, and has the versatility and size to play the 4-3-2 depending on the matchup/lineup. Randle needs to realize his potential this year, he's an X-factor as well. The kid we got from cali is nice too and will be a solid combo guard off the bench, mainly as a backup to frazier I feel. Brock can't shoot for anything but he is athletic and can play D. I really feel like Bruce is a great X and O's coach, but having seeing these guys he should probably reel that in a little bit this year and allow them to play at a more uptempo pace. We have the shooters (meachem, jamar), the point guards (frazier, cali kid), the athletic 3's (randle, brock), versatyle 4 (Juco kid, and semrau is a big who can shoot) and the big man in pruitt as well as the depth to run up and down the court. Something Weber should consider.

It's easy to get worked up about recruits based upon newspaper or internet coverage. It's exciting when four- and five-start players say that they are considering your school -- or that your coaches have offered them scholarships.

But oftentimes, all the high-school hype is fool's gold.

The best example I can offer comes from the state of Illinois -- going back to 1979. Two of the nation's top consensus point guards graduated that year -- Isiah Thomas of St. Joseph and Raymond McCoy of Bloom.

Isiah went on to NCAA and NBA championships, and was named among the NBA's 50 greatest players a few years ago.

Raymond went to the University of San Francisco, then DePaul, then?

So, in short, the recruits that people are drooling over right now are highly ranked for good reason. The real question is how many will continue to develop, and reach the potential that is there for the taking.

Chi, Chi, Chi, hold on a minute!!! First let me say that I love the Illini, and I generally agree with you regarding the need for a young recruiting lion for the Illini coaching staff. But you obviously have issues of the heart when it comes to this team and these players. What makes you think that Brian Randle won't be the same sometimes beast, sometimes meek, most times foul prone, inept Brian Randle that we've observed the past few years? That Meacham and Smith are going to suddenly add a burst of versatility never seen before to their games. That lightly recruited folk like Semrau, the JUCO kid, the Cali kid" (Wow! They were so impressive, you can't even remember their names, ROFL!!!!) are gonna suddenly turn into world beaters. C'mon, I love the school, the team, and all that, but lets be realistic for just a moment. Unless a serious upgrade in recruited talent occurs, the forseeable future is looking quite painful.

This is why you would not be a good fit in the grad recruiter role. Because you view things through the average fans Illini colored glasses. A recruiter such as you say Weber needs on his staff, would need to hone his skills with endless hours of watching prospective players and projecting how they would fit in his program without involving his heart.Then such a person would have to have the personality to navigate the AAU circuit and cultivate the not only relationships with the AAU crowd, but with the school coaches, the families, and the players themselves. A recruiter has to do this so he knows who are the most talented kids, THAT HE CAN GET TO COME TO HIS SCHOOL!!! We talk about how cruel the recruiting game is, but peep this. The best hunters are the the ones whose instincts toward cruelty outweigh the predatory instincts of the hunted. Too much Illini recruiting time is wasted on coddling and being nice to kids that were never going to go to Illinois in the first place. Another news flash! Coach Weber has to over coach this group of players because there is no game busters in his lineup, no one man fast break, no Deron and Luther to knock down a consistent jumper. Jamar and Trent can knock them down on a good day, but their other liabilities over shadow their good points, which makes it impossible to play them for extended periods of time. Make or break year? Maybe, maybe not. The trustees have committed to Coach Weber for the long haul, and coach Weber is very resourceful, and knows how to adjust on the fly. Elite 8 and Sweet 16? Not now, but don't be suprised if it is sooner rather than later. Coach is a genius.

All I have to say about Bruce Weber's ability to recruit......
Jon Scheyer.

The kid's high school coach (who had him on the varsity for 4 YEARS) is Bruce's BROTHER. and not like brother in law, or step brother, or cousins, nothing like that. same parents. flesh and blood. brothers. Weber couldnt land him. what does that say? especially to other recruits?

It seems to me that there is no excuse for the University of Illinois not having an elite basketball program. Chicago is up the street, St. Louis is just to the south, Indy is an easy shot to the east, the administration supports the athletic program, everything is seemingly in place. The final piece to the puzzle was also here, Bill Self, who was about to recruit mightily for the university, then things turned chaotic. Is there any hope at this point?

Ken, maybe Bruce's brother was a bad coach? Maybe they didn't get along or something?

Scheyer was a Duke fan since age 4. I give Weber credit for at least making it a 2-horse race. That was an impossible recruitment that he at least made interesting.

When Weber starts missing the NCAA tournament or failing to win 20+ games a season, I'll come over to the dark side. Until then, all this talk about what Weber should have done, didn't do, needs to do is - in the words of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich - "psychobabble".

Well, I think its just grand that Coach did make it a two horse race. The only problem I have with Scheyer's recruiting is that Coach's brother saw this kid every day for like 6, 7 years, maybe even more. The fact that the kid was stuck on Duke never manifested in thought, word, or deed? I have a hard time believing that. So either the brothers Weber didn't communicate, or the kid and his family put a long term bamboozle over on both of them. In the recruiting game, you're either first, or you're the fastest loser. (Boy, that Dale Earnhardt was smart!) An attentive recruiter could have fleshed that fact out in ten seconds.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael O'Brien published on July 10, 2007 8:47 PM.

Shumpert on North Carolina: "I'm going to give them a closer look now." was the previous entry in this blog.

Luther Head returns to the West Side is the next entry in this blog.

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