Class of 2014 plans change with Bates-Diop's decision

Bob Fitzgerald had three short, yet telling words when asked Monday if Keita Bates-Diop's recruitment would peter out now that the highly-regarded junior forward Keita Bates-Diop verbally committed to Ohio State on Sunday.

"I hope so," Bates-Diop's head coach at Normal University (Ill.) High School said.

Bates-Diop's commitment to Thad Matta and the Buckeyes let out a collective groan among Illinois fans on Sunday when word spread of his decision.

Bates-Diop, a 6-foot-8-inch forward who had an offer from Illinois — along with offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and plenty of others — will now spend his next two seasons answering questions about how he'll fit in with the Buckeyes instead of where he'll go to college.

Now Illinois will most likely focus its recruiting attention in the Class of 2014 to in-state prospects like Champaign Centennial's Michael Finke, Springfield Lanphier's Larry Austin Jr., and others, with top recruits like Cliff Alexander from Chicago Curier and Jahlil Okafor from Chicago Whitney Young more pipe dreams than realistic.

With Bates-Diop's decision to forgo Illinois, it's another blow to Illinois in hopes of landing one of the premier recruits in Illinois. But we'll see how first-year head coach John Groce and his staff handle what direction the Class of 2014 goes now.

Players get recruited at an earlier age it seems like each year, so it's not a complete shock Bates-Diop decided to give a verbal right before the start of his junior season.

"He had been recruited since the end of his freshman year, and after a while, it wears on you," Fitzgerald said. "I think the biggest thing was he felt comfortable with his choice of Ohio State so he decided not to drag it out any longer."

All the typical keywords when it comes to a recruiting choosing a school — it's the right fit in terms of playing style, the relationship built with the coaching staff, the academic part and other items — seemed to factor into Bates-Diop's decision to choose Ohio State.

While the calls will come that Groce isn't much different than Bruce Weber as a recruiter, isn't it better to know at this point that Bates-Diop is off Illinois' radar rather than spend the next year putting forth effort during the next year only to have him spurn Illinois at the end? The argument could be made for and against that point.

Either way, from a perception standpoint, not reeling in a player of Bates-Diop's caliber that's 45 minutes away from Champaign-Urbana probably has Illinois fans miffed, especially since Fitzgerald said Bates-Diop has improved "a lot" since his sophomore season that garnered interest from most of the Big Ten before his breakthrough summer with the Illinois Wolves.

"As a sophomore on a senior-dominated team last year, he took a backseat approach to things and let them lead," Fitzgerald said. "This year we expect him to be more assertive on the floor, a role I think he is growing more comfortable with and better at every day."
 

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1 illinifan wrote on November 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Really cannot believe this article, obviously Matt is not a Groce fan. His recruiting is just fine. If the kid did not want to come here then, good, we do not need kids that do not want to be here, not go for us. I personally have no problem with him not coming. By the time he does to Ohio we will be beating them consistently anyway and he will just be veiwed as a traiter to the state school. Very true that Ohio State is and will be an elite program, just not as good as us. His recruiting this far is awesome with the time he has had.

 

Presently everybody is awed but have not paid much attention to the consistency that which we are playing, adding constant improvement on that and we are going far, now, and in the future.

 

Bottom line, this is a consistent awesome coach and we are fortunate to have him.

JimOATSfan wrote on November 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

So the question is 'Why did B-D ignore his state school and choose an out-of-state school'?  He made the choice.

No reason to blame the Illini coaching staff for not landing him.

Jam wrote on November 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm

It just seems that the new writers have a lot to learn in their reporting of all things Illini.  it seems to have become fashionable from the News-Gazette writers to be overly critical.  This is not a big deal.  He is a young man who wants to be enjoying his remaining high school years. Ohio State is a great school and Thad Matta is a great coach.  John Groce is a protege of his.  Illinois will become more competitive with these kids once they begin to see Coach Groce's style and record.  I like Coach Groce and hope that he develops this program into one that is on the frontend of every kids decision.

griff507 wrote on November 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

How could any high school kid not want to play for John Groce? After watching the Illini beat USC last night, I can not imagine anyone not wanting to play in his system! B-D can go to OSU, that is his choice, but very soon other high rated kids will start taking notice, and come to C-U. I have not seem smiles on Illini players in years. This group is having fun, and that alone is great to see. The fact that they are playing well is just icing on the cake.

Go ILL-INI!