Big recruiting weekend for Illinois women's basketball
Illinois women's basketball has averaged more than 1,500 spectators in its first nine home games this season.
First-year head coach Matt Bollant hopes that number triples or even quadruples for the Illini's next home game at 3 p.m. on Sunday against Michigan State in what is a big recruiting weekend for the program.
Sunday's game is a Pack the Hall promotion, and admission to the game is free.
Doors open at 2 p.m. on a game that will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
"We're just hoping for a great atmosphere," Bollant said. "We've invited a lot of our top recruits here believing we'll have a great atmosphere. I'd love to see between 5,000 to 7,000 fans out there excited for our program and show support."
Bollant and Illinois will have three scholarships available for the Class of 2014, with Bollant citing a need to bring in a point guard and a center.
The next scholarship would go to whoever the best player that is available regardless of position.
"We really believe you recruit a point guard every year," Bollant said. "Instead of having one or two point guards on the roster, we'd like to have four because we believe the point guards can play together. You can play two or three point guards at the same time."
Illinois signed six players in Bollant's first class, with four from Illinois, one from Michigan and one from Minnesota.
Three of the four in-state signees with the Class of 2013 — forward/center Jacqui Grant from Maine South, guard Kennedy Cattenhead from Bolingbrook and guard/forward Sarah Livingston from Morton — are expected to be in attendance on Sunday along with guard Taylor Gleason from Grand Blanc, Mich.
Playing at the spacious Assembly Hall doesn't exactly generate the best atmosphere for a women's basketball game. But Bollant doesn't look at that as a drawback when talking to potential recruits.
"These fans love Illinois," he said. "When we put a good product on the floor, they're going to come out and support us. We talk about the support of our men's program and volleyball program. When we get this rocking and rolling, it's going to be a good atmosphere (at the Assembly Hall)."
Winning at Ohio State last Sunday, playing Purdue close in an overtime home loss and pulling off a home upset of Georgia in the past two weeks has generated a noticeable buzz around the program that Bollant hopes pays off on the recruiting trail.
"We had kids interested before, but these past few weeks have helped and brings some awareness," Bollant said. "There's kids around the country watching us on the Big Ten Network and beating Ohio State at Ohio State when they'd won 31 straight (at home), that says something to these recruits that we're going to turn it around and turn it around pretty fast."