With Thanksgiving fast approaching and plenty of items on the recruiting menu (I couldn't resist the bad joke), here's a smorgasbord of recruiting tidbits to tide you over for the weekend.
— Illinois men's basketball head coach John Groce said after bringing in Belleville East (Ill.) High School wing Malcolm Hill for a visit once he was hired, the next Class of 2013 signee to descend on Champaign-Urbana was Chicago Simeon High School senior guard Kendrick Nunn. Groce and his staff had already made inroads with Nunn from their time at Ohio, which certainly helped in landing the combo guard.
"He brings you athleticism, he can shoot the ball, he's a winner, he wants to play with really good players ... (and) he understands how important his teammates are," Groce said. "Some of those things are what you get with him. What he's done at Simeon, that speaks for itself. You hope that becomes like a domino and gets guys' attention, not only in Chicago, not only state-wide, but also nationally."
— Much was made in the days after Bruce Weber's firing and a new staff coming in about mending possible rifts with Chicago high school coaches. Chief among them Simeon's Robert Smith. With Nunn and senior point guard Jaylon Tate signing on Wednesday, it's safe to say those concerns are mute now.
"Obviously, I understand and feel his passion for what he's doing," Groce said. "He's done a great job, and I think he has a great feel for what we're trying to do and the passion I have and we have for building the Illinois basketball program. To be honest with you, it wasn't that big of a deal."
— Relationships, relationships, relationships. That's one key word and springboard for any recruiting success college coaches have in recruiting. Groce himself has said so, and landing the five players he did in such a short amount of time is why this Class of 2013, on paper, is a sound and solid one.
"Our staff did a great job of building relationships with key guys, key people and really working at it and selling to them the vision they had for our program moving forward," Groce said. "It's really a combination of all those things."
— While Illinois fans try to gather more information and learn about New Jersey prospect Austin Colbert, Tate was a fan of bringing in the power forward.
"I was thrilled," he said. "That was the last piece of the puzzle in getting him. We know he's a real good player and a real good person off the court. That's just going to make the family and the bond even tighter with the five of us coming in."
— Of the commits Illinois football has for the Class of 2013, three are still alive in their state's respective playoffs. Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) High School teammates Jarrod Clements and Reon Dawson of the 10-2 Rams will play at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday against 12-0 Turpin High School out of Cincinnati in a Division II Region 8 regional final playoff game. The game will take place at Kings Stadium at Kings High School in Kings Mills, Ohio. A win there gets the Rams, the defending Division II state champions, into the state semifinals.
— Closer to Champaign-Urbana, Belleville Althoff Catholic (Ill.) High School and senior defensive tackle Merrick Jackson will try to lead the Crusaders to their first state championship game appearance since 1990. Jackson and the 9-3 Crusaders host 12-0 Camp Point Central/Southeastern High School at 2 p.m. on Saturday in a Class 2A semifinal game at Belleville's Lindenwood University Field. A win there will find Jackson and Althoff playing at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Nov. 24, against either Clifton Central or Mercer County. One interesting note about the field Althoff will play on Saturday. If you thought it was difficult watching Boise State play its home games on blue turf, this facility is a different beast entirely. The field is striped gray and red every five yards. Seriously.