Every National Signing Day brings a sense of optimism for fan bases across the country.
And it should feel like a success for Illinois men's and women's basketball fans. Given the length of time John Groce and Matt Bollant had to put together their first recruiting classes at Illinois, the 11 players that are set to sign letters of intent today represent a possibility that those two teams will turn the corner in the years ahead.
Groce's Class of 2013 is at five players — guards Malcolm Hill from Belleville East (Ill.) High School, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate from Chicago Simeon High School, center Maverick Morgan from Springboro (Ohio) High School and forward/center Austin Colbert from Gill St. Bernards (N.J.) School.
Bollant's first class is at six — forward Sarah Livingston from Morton (Ill.) High School, forward Leah Bolton from Chicago Marist, guard Kennedy Cattenhead from Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School, forward/center Jacqui Grant from Maine South (Ill.) High School, guard Taylor Gleason from Goodrich (Mich.) High School and Mikaala Shackelford from Hopkins (Minn.) High School.
All are solid players that won't top the nation's leaderboard of recruits, but appear to be good program players who can implement Bollant's up-tempo offensive and defensive system.
Each first-year head coach had ample scholarships to dole out with their first class, and both addressed needs for the future. Groce asserted himself and Illinois in the Chicago recruiting scene by pulling in Nunn and Tate while getting somewhat of a surprise in Colbert.
Getting an East Coast player like Colbert to commit to a school in in the Midwest is a significant get for Groce and should widen his recruiting base even more.
Groce and his staff firmed up Hill's commitment after the Lancers combo guard originally committed to Bruce Weber. Adding a post player the size of Morgan is key when looking at the post players Illinois currently has, plus it gives Morgan time to develop once he arrives on campus.
All these recruits were rounded up from the time of mid-March until now, an eight-month stretch. Imagine what these coaches can do given more time and if each of their squads have success this winter.