Illinois back in Brunson race
The recruitment of Jalen Brunson probably won't take on the drama associated with, say, the recruitment of Cliff Alexander.
Mention the Chicago Curie big man who picked Kansas ahead of Illinois three months ago and emotions are bound to swirl among Illinois fans.
Brunson is another Chicagoland recruit who might elicit the same type of response. Maybe not now, but where the Class of 2015 point guard from Stevenson winds up is a closely-watched matter.
Especially since John Groce and his staff have made a full-court press recently for Brunson.
The entire coaching staff attended Brunson's game against Zion-Benton on Feb. 7, and Groce was in attendance again for Stevenson's latest game last Friday night against Mundelein.
"It's nice to see that Illinois made a lot of headway in a period where it's typically a lot more dead," said Joe Henricksen, publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops Report. "These three weeks were big for Illinois to get them back in the picture. The grind really begins in April through signing day in November."
Brunson has handled the spotlight and attention of a high-major prospect for more than a year.
It might only increase in the subsequent months before he makes his college destination known.
"Timetable-wise it will be interesting to see because they've been involved with certain schools for awhile, and Illinois is back in there," Henricksen said. "I usually don't get into the whole importance of unofficial visits and visiting (certain schools). In this particular case, I think it would be really big. Illinois should try to get him down there just to keep this momentum going with Jalen. If he were to visit Illinois, I think it would bode very well for them."
Finding a lead guard to run the system Groce wants to use at Illinois is crucial.
Of all the in-state point guard prospects in the Class of 2015, Brunson fits the description of everything Illinois is looking for best.
"He wants the ball at crunch time," Henricksen said. "You have this ultra-comfort level when that ball is in his hands. You look at Illinois and the type of players they have, that's been lacking there for the last couple of years. A player of Jalen Brunson's caliber in terms of his basketball IQ and feel and his toughness and know-how to finish things at crunch time, really sets him apart from other players in that junior class in Illinois."
Illinois fans thought Louisville (Ky.) Ballard's Quentin Snider was the player to fill that bill three months ago.
But then the Class of 2014 point guard backed out and returned to his original school, his hometown Cardinals.
Now it appears Brunson has again become the focal point of point guard prospects for Illinois.
"Illinois is back in it and the door is back open, but you can't just sit here and vault Illinois to the top of the list, " Henricksen said. "Just like any other recruitment of a high-level kid, it's going to take a lot more work."