Illinois back in Brunson race

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."


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jturner wrote on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

Interesting article in the sun-times last week about the situation. Quoted his family extensively and indicated that after the Snider commit, Illinois quit calling.  Just quit calling without any direct communication of what was happening. Left the family to read between the lines. A very strange approach in terms of maintaining relationships.  Full court press then radio silence.

gtillini95 wrote on February 18, 2014 at 10:02 am

I'd like to be optimistic about this, but have we actually come across anything from Jalen Brunson's own mouth indicating Illinois is in a race for his services?  Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume these 5-star guys are playing us.  A handler is in one ear suggesting interest from the real suitors is lukewarm and it's time to bring the Illini back in for their cameo to generate fresh buzz..

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem if coach Groce and his staff do everything in their power to land the big fish. I suppose we'll start winning games again and it'll be good to have a constant presence in the gyms where the top players do their thing.  However, it'll take a lot more than just having folks wearing orange in the stands to make me believe there's anything to get excited about.  At this point, I need a faxed LOI. 

griff507 wrote on February 18, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I agree! We have all had enough of the hype already. Brunson has not been quoted, that I know of, saying anything about Illinois being back in. Only people around him talking.

I can't say I would blame him if he does go some where else. It was quite a slap in the face, to just drop him like a rock, when Groce and the staff thought Snyder was coming. They should know better than anybody, that you can't take an eighteen year olds would for anything, when it comes to recruiting. You only have them when they sign on the dotted line, and even then they still might back out!


thebucketman wrote on February 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm

 when you have no scholarships left to offer, usually the recruitment of an athlete stops. that is just the way it is. in my opinion, the other Jalen, Jalen Coleman, is the better of the two Janens. this is where we should put our recruiting emphisis! go illini!