September is shaping up to be one of the more promising months in some time for the Illinois basketball program on the recruiting front.
Word came out Tuesday that Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard from Huntington (W.V.) Prep, has scheduled an official visit to Illinois for this weekend. Rathan-Mayes has Illinois, Connecticut and Florida State on his final three list of schools, with a decision expected in mid-October.
With five scholarships available and three commits already lined up for the Class of 2013, new Illinois head coach John Groce has definitely excited the Illinois fan base in his first six months on the job.
And even some of his future players.
Belleville East (Ill.) High School senior guard Malcolm Hill is on board with the recent commitment Illinois nabbed on Saturday with Chicago Simeon High School combo guard Kendrick Nunn.
"I was actually at the Belleville East-East St. Louis football game (on Saturday), when I found out through Twitter," Hill said of Nunn's commitment. "I got real excited. I've played against him a couple times before in the past, and I've seen him throughout the AAU circuit, so I'm familiar with him."
What's it mean for Illinois to grab a commitment from a player like Nunn, who recently was listed at No. 42 among the Class of 2013 according to a Rivals.com list that had Hill in at No. 64?
"I think it means a lot," Hill said. "It's real important because with the new coaching staff, to be able to get a guy like Kendrick and his ranking, it shows that we have a lot to offer, so hopefully we can get some more recruits in."
While Nunn's summer was spent playing with Team USA in the FIBA U-17 World Championships in Lithuania and with his AAU team, the Chicago Meanstreets, Hill's was a little different.
He was hospitalized in late June and early June with a reported blood clot injury in his left arm shortly after he returned from the NBA Players Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia in mid-June. Hill did not disclose the extent of his injury on Tuesday, but said he should be cleared "within weeks."
"I'm getting better," the 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard said. "In two or three more weeks, I'll be able to play against contact."
Hill is eager and anxious to get back on the court in preparation for his senior season with the Lancers, who start the 2012-13 season
"I'm really excited," he said. "I haven't played basketball in about two or three months, so I'm pumped."
Hill said he visits Champaign-Urbana once or twice every 2-3 months. He was on campus Labor Day weekend to meet Illinois target Demetrius Jackson, the point guard from Marian Catholic High School in Mishawaka, Ind., that is a top priority for Groce and his staff.
"We were just talking about school and how things were going," Hill said. "We went to the (Illinois) football game. We had fun. I'm not pushing him too hard because I remember what it was like when I was getting recruited, so I don't want to put too much pressure on him."
Hill will have pressure to lead Belleville East this winter — the Lancers will try to advance farther in the postseason after Hill's junior season ended with a loss in a Class 4A regional championship game — but doesn't have the pressure of making his college choice.
"I'm glad I committed early because now I can just focus on my high school season," Hill said, "and have fun with the team my last year."