With only 17 days (Yes, we’ve been counting here at Sports Guys) until the first Illinois Men’s Basketball exhibition game, the offers and commitments for basketball players in the Class of 2017 are well underway. Abu Kigab, who received an offer from the University of Illinois earlier this year and has had a formal visit, will announce his college choice on Friday. Though the Crystal Ball appears to give him a sure commitment to Oregon over the Illini, stranger things have happened. Though the Illini would love to land Kigab, a 4-star Small Forward out of California, they aren’t short of options for next year’s recruiting class. The Illini currently have the #3 recruiting class in the nation according to 247sports.com, and have already landed a five-star. But we’ll talk about that in a moment. Coach John Groce has done a fantastic job putting together the recruiting class he already has for 2017, but he currently has 2 spots left to fill, and the Illini (assuming we don’t have another red-shirt due to an injury *knocks on wood *prays *wishes-upon-nearest-shooting-star) will be losing four guard players in Malcolm Hill, Alex Austin, Jaylon Tate, and Tracy Abrams, along with two big men in Mike Thorne Jr. and Maverick Morgan. It doesn’t really have to be said that this next recruiting class will be a large piece in deciding the future of the Illinois Basketball program, and Groce (and Illini fans alike) will be looking for the class to have an immediate impact.
Current Commits: The Illini have fielded a recruiting class that already looks top-notch, even with two spots left to be filled. For the sake of order, we’ll go from the highest ranked recruits to the lowest.
Jeremiah Tilmon: The 6’11”, 220 lb. 5-star Power Forward is ranked 9th in his position, and 25th overall nationally. The number one recruit in the state of Illinois chose to stay home for his college ball. 247sports gives him a 99.01/100 rating. He committed back in July, and will look to make an instant impact playing behind big-men Leron Black and Mike Finke in the 2017-18 season. He chose the Illini over Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State, Kentucky, and many other schools that gave him a look. Needless to say, it’s a big deal. You can see some of Tilmon’s tapes here:
Trent Frazier: One of two highly rated recruits coming in listed as point guards, the 6’2”, 170 lb. West Palm Beach Florida native is rated as the 23rd best Point Guard in his position, and is rated 101st nationally. 247Sports gives him a 94/100 rating, and 4-star status.
Frazier is known for being able to score in a variety of ways, whether it be from behind the arc or through his tricky dribble penetration. He also has a great eye for the pass, and will be a huge help in running Point or Shooting Guard for the Illini. You can see some of Trent’s tapes, here:
Damonte Williams: Groce and Co. also reeled in the 24th best Point Guard, rated 107th nationally. Williams’s dad Frank was an Illinois basketball player and former 1st round draft pick, and an Illinois legend in his own right. Williams has the potential (in my humble opinion) to play up to the heavy shadow that comes from his father’s college career, and be a solid combo-guard for an Illinois team that has all-too-often lacked good guard play recently. You can see some of his tapes, here:
Javon Pickett: The fourth hard commit for the Illini is a 6’3” shooting guard out of Belleville, Illinois. Pickett is a 87/100 rated multi-purpose guard. He is ranked 51st in his position nationally, and is the 8th recruit in state.
Who fills the last two spots?
Honestly, at this point, the answer to this question is a complete and udder stumper. It’s completely in the air, however, the Illini will have two good recruits regardless to round out this class.
For Ease of access to you guys, I’m going to stick to players that have visited. The Illini have offered a lot of potential players to fill these two last spots, and rather than waste your time running over those (if you enjoy this, I’ll write a more in-depth article later on) I’ll stick to players who have visited, or who have shown great interest in playing for the Illini.
Potentials: The Illini have hosted six basketball players so far, and three of them have made verbal commitments. (Not a bad record, looking at you John Groce.)
Abu Kigab Situation – Kigab made his first visit in his recruiting process with the Illini on September 16th, and would be a clutch pull for the Illini, he will make his announcement sometime Friday October 14th between Illinois and Oregon. I don’t think he chooses the Illini on this one, even though I’d love to see it. This Illini recruiting class means business, but the Oregon Ducks have strong ties to Canada, the country Kigab really calls home. We’ll find out later today.
Mayan Kiir – The 6’9” PF out of Bradenton, Florida would be a great fit with the Illini program. Kiir has also played a lot of out of position roles as a Center and others, and is ranked as a 91/100 4-star by 247sports.com. Kiir has offers from LSU, N.C. State, Illinois, and Louisville. Most Crystal Ball predictions have the Illini a pretty heavy favorite in this man’s future. He has a huge wingspan and great vertical, and would be a solid addition this Illini class that is already looking to be set up to compete well.
(UPDATE) In the few hours that have passed since I started writing this, Illinois has offered another player.
Kenny Wooten – The Illini offered a scholarship to Wooten on October 14th, and it is an odd situation to say the least. Wooten originally committed to Nevada on November 23rd, and even signed a letter of intent. Needless to say, he changed his mind. Wooten is a 3-star Forward who is ranked as the 227th player in the class of 2017. To me, he isn’t a guy that would change a team in a big way, but could look to add solid minutes and some depth to a team. Interesting offer from the Illini, who by all accounts still seem on the hot trail for a lot of other (…higher rated..per say) recruits.
Kris Wilkes – The young Small Forward stud out of Indiana would look to add another 5-star recruit to the 2017 class. If this happens, the Illini could end up with the best recruiting class of 2017. Illini fans already have a reason to look forward to the upcoming years, but let’s just say this is similar to a class of Brown, Head, and Williams. I don’t want to hype up the class too much, but let that sit on you for a minute In Wilkes’s case, he’s a stud in almost every way. A North Central High graduate in Indianapolis, he’s ranked as a 99.34/100 overall, and the number 18 player in his class. He’s won countless awards for his play in high school, including being named Indiana Mr. Basketball by the Indianapolis Star. Wilkes narrowed his list recently to UCLA, Indiana, and Illinois. You heard it right, Indiana is a big factor in this. The real question is, will Wilkes stay at home? Wilkes had 18 offers before he narrowed his choices, including North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Michigan State. What the good news is? The Illini are in the top 3. If Groce can find a way to lure “Mr. Indiana Basketball” to the Illini, not only would it make a huge statement to the rest of the B1G teams that Illinois basketball was back, but this Illini recruiting class would (it probably already will anyway) be suited to compete, and compete big.
My Opinion: *GASP* He’s putting his opinion in a piece of journalism(ish) writing?! OH no!! Take that, ESPN.
I’d love to see Wilkes choose Illinois. I’d love to see Wilkes and Kigab fill the roster spots. I think that would seal us in definitely as the number one recruiting class in the nation. However, I don’t neccesariy believe we will get one, much less both of them, with the amount of talent we have already recruited. However, as you’ve noticed, I’m wrong quite often. I’d love to see it. However, all of the recruits I’ve listed I think will fit well with the program. Kiir would be a great addition to an already prospering Illinois team and recruiting class under John Groce. His length and vertical would allow him to work his way inside in a similar way to Nnanna Egwu a few years back. Add that into the potential of the other recruits, and you’ve got a stacked Illinois team for the years to come. That’s not even considering the 2018 and ’19 recruiting classes sure to come.
Illinois making a big run in the tournament for continuous years down the road after about a year or two?
Don’t count it out, Illini fans. You’re not dreaming. Illinois basketball, may just be back in action.
For now, here’s a picture of the team everyone knows. (Most recently featured in 2K17) Could we have a Déjà vu coming up? We’ll just have to wait and see.