Questions? I have answers
Here's a few leftover questions from my weekly chat last Friday, all focused on basketball, including a bit on women's basketball and new head coach Matt Bollant.
Could be a big next couple of days for Illinois men's basketball and head coach John Groce as senior forwards Ben Moore from Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School and Austin Colbert from Gill St. Bernards (N.J.) School, along with senior combo guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, could decide on their college choices — Rathan-Mayes has a press conference scheduled for Saturday to decided between Illinois, Florida State and Connecticut — soon.
From Mike M.,
Matt, do you think Tate committing will in any way affect the recruitment of XRM? I'd speculated that the potential silver lining of losing out on Jackson would be selling XRM on playing with the ball in his hands a lot more. I wouldn't imagine that a 3-star kid would scare off a 5-star kid, but you never know how much logic and reasoning applies to any given recruitment. Tate's comments that the staff was done recruiting '13 and '14 point guards could be seen as troublesome, I suppose, if XRM was being sold on being a PG here, but we need a lot more than one ballhandler anyway. I'm guessing it won't make a difference either way, but what are your thoughts?
Hi Mike M. -
I don't think Jaylon Tate, a senior from Chicago Simeon High School, committing to Illinois will affect Xavier Rathan-Mayes' recruiting. Tate is a point guard. Illinois needed (and still does need) a point guard in the Class of 2013. Rathan-Mayes is a scorer. He can handle the ball and create off the dribble, but his main forte is putting the ball in the basket. If Illinois can land him, it'd be a major get for Groce and probably excite the fan base more than when Kendrick Nunn, a high school teammate of Tate's at Chicago Simeon, committed in early September.
I wouldn't read too much into Tate's comments about the coaching staff being done recruiting point guards in the Class of 2013 and 2014. From everything I've heard and people I've talked to, Groce and his staff can't have enough ball handlers. JaQuan Lyle, one of the premium point guard talents in the Class of 2014 from Bosse High School in Evansville, Ind., is set to take an unofficial visit to Illinois the last weekend in Illinois. No way this staff stops looking and evaluating point guards in the Class of 2013 and 2014.
How interested is Coach Groce and staff in JaQuan Lyle from Evansville Bosse? He is one of the smoothest all-around players I have coached against. Phenomenal talent that I have always heard likes the Illini and the Texas Longhorns. The part I don't like is that Kentucky is becoming a factor and he is attending their Midnight Madness. Any thoughts on who is more of a priority for next year? KBD, Cliff Alexander and ???
Hi Gary -
To sum up Groce and his staff's interest in Lyle: very. Lyle brings size (6-4, 180) that could have college coaches across the country, Groce included, drooling and dreaming about getting him in their uniform. Illinois will have to go up against the big boys in trying to land a commitment from Lyle. He has offers from Illinois, Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Xavier. If Kentucky's getting interested in him and becoming a factor, that speaks to the type of player he might become.
In an obvious understatement, Illinois has not had much luck luring talent from Indiana. But it's a good sign that Groce and his staff are in early on a player like Lyle. Expect a full-fledged effort, at least early on, to try and land Lyle.
As far as the Class of 2014, landing a player like Keita Bates-Diop from Normal University (Ill.) High School remains a priority. From a perception program, it will help immensely to get a player that's only a 45-minute drive down Interstate 74 from the Illinois campus. You have to land top-notch players in your own home state. Having them leave does not help temper a fan's disappointment. Cliff Alexander from Chicago Curie High School and Jahlil Okafor from Chicago Whitney Young are two of the premier talents in the Class of 2014, but Illinois appears to have a long shot right now at having the two big men from the Chicago Public League who are attracting interest from some of the top programs in the country.
From Chief Fan,
So now that we have 2 Simeon players, what could that mean for us on JP and what about XRM?
Hi Chief Fan -
Jabari Parker, arguably the top player in the Class of 2013, narrowed his list to five schools recently — BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford — in no particular order. Even with Nunn and Tate, two players who will try to help Parker and Simeon try to win its fourth straight Class 4A state championship this winter, committed to Illinois, I'd still say the chances of landing Jabari Parker are somewhere between slim and none. Parker has dealt with the recruiting whirlwind ever since he started high school. His family has probably got the process to a science by now and knows exactly what they are looking for in a school.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes will choose between Illinois, Florida State and Connecticut. It seems Florida State might be in the lead for now, but Illinois will take its chances into his announcement, which is expected to come on Saturday in a press conference.
From BT Kilmer,
There have been more than a few references to the D. Jackson recruitment having "negative recruiting" elements - anything you can share on that front?
Also, should anyone read into Klee's comment that he thinks Coach Bollant will be the best of the new coaching hires?
Hi BT Kilmer -
I've not heard any references to any negative recruiting elements regarding Demetrius Jackson and Illinois' pursuit of the senior point guard from Mishawaka, Ind., who chose nearby Notre Dame. Illinois was in Jackson's final two choices, which can be seen two ways by Illinois fans — why did we waste our time and efforts going after a player like that when it wasn't likely he would end up in Champaign-Urbana and kudos to Groce and staff for stepping out to new recruiting territories in an effort to land a program-changing player. I like to think the latter is the better way to go about, but that's just my opinion.
Paul Klee has been around the Illinois program and covered Illinois athletics much longer than I have. I'll side with him on that opinion. Matt Bollant is at least second in terms of public opinion for the new hires Illinois has made in the last year with the poor start by Tim Beckman and the football team. I'd rate Groce right now as the top hire based on the recruits he's compiled and the buzz he's generated among the fan base. Of course, that could all change in the next month with a loss to Colgate. Bollant's women's basketball team is coming off some poor seasons in the recent past, but he's won at every place he's been at before. I could see Bollant having a Kevin Hambly-like effect on the women's basketball program. Hope that helps.
Feel free to submit questions for my weekly chat that starts at 1 p.m. on Friday leading up to my weekly chat and during the 1 p.m. hour on Friday. If I don't get to them on Friday, I'll do my best to answer them at a later date.