April 6 Cody Westerlund Chat

April 6 Cody Westerlund Chat

Friday, April 6, 2012 - 12:30pm

Is Rayvonte Rice headed to the Big Ten? Who is John Groce going to sign when the spring session starts April 11? What about Tim Beckman's first class? Ask HQ recruiting guru Cody Westerlund, who is chatting today.

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm
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Afternoon everyone, HQ's Cody Westerlund joining you for a recruiting chat. Got a lot of questions in the queue, so I'll get right to them.

Randy h wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Do you think rayvonte rice will transfer to Illinois? And if he did would Illinois want him?

Dave C. wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm


What are the chances Rayvonte Rice lands at Illinois?

Nate S. wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm


Any chance that Rayvonte Rice could be headed home and play for Coach Groce?  Thanks.

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm
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When I said there's a lot of questions in the queue, I should have just said there's a lot of Rayvonte Rice ponderings. Here's the deal, though.

Rayvonte Rice would have to sit out a year should he transfer to another Division-I program, which is obviously his goal. His mother told WCIA-TV 3 in Champaign that he wants to play on a "bigger stage."

Is that Illinois? To my knowledge right now, no. Rice is certainly a good player -- he was second-team all-Valley last season -- but there's more immediate needs for Illinois. He's another wing on a team full of wings -- Bertrand and Henry should be here, recruit Malcolm Hill will likely be here, and Tracy Abrams could see time on the wing if Jalen James can handle the some point guard duties early. And who knows how Devin Langford will be used.

 The Illini's biggest need right now is for another big man after Meyers Leonard recently declared for the draft. There's a lot of responsibility for Egwu, Griffey and Shaw to take on next year.

And coach John Groce said the other day (to paraphrase) he wouldn't take someone just to fill a scholarship. While Rice certainly isn't a "filler" player by any means, you have to weigh if he's the best fit for you long term when there's some solid players in-state in the 2013 and 2014 class and only "x" number of scholarships.

Do I think Rice would make Illinois better in the fall of 2013, when he'd be eligible? Yes. But there are many factors to consider here, and Groce is pitching a long-term plan to recruits, not just an immediate fix.

Rosie wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Just wondering if anyone has heard if Coach Groce has had any contact with the Parkers?  Thank you.

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm
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Not sure of the exact details on Groce contacting the Parkers. I believe Jabari went on a little trip/took a few days off here during Simeon's spring break before AAU ball gets started back up. But Groce's staff has already been in consistent contact with the Simeon coaching staff, so take that for what it's worth. They're working the Jabari Parker angle and will be in contact with the family as much as they can.

Just some dude wrote on April 06, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I couldn't help but notice the comments from Melvin Nunn regarding how Groce wants to make him "the cornerstone" of starting something special.  Is there any reason to believe Malcolm Hill or Jalen James may take these comments as a slight to them?  I can assume he will tell them similar things?

What do you know about Semi Ojeleye as a big for the 2013 class. I think Weber will recruit him at KSU also, but it would be a good get for Illinois and fit Groce's system.

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Jalen James has the point guard mentality, which helps his team on the court and him make friends off the court. In no way does he mind that someone else may be the primary building block. Jalen's got a great attitude in that regard -- he just wants to help his team out. And though he and Nunn aren't around each other much (James plays for the Wolves and goes to prep school in Indiana, while Nunn plays for Meanstreets and goes to school in the city), there's a healthy mutual respect there. The guess here is James would call Nunn a friend, that's just his modus operandi.

I don't know as much about Hill's thoughts, so I don't want to speak for him. But several things should be noted:

A) Hill's a nice kid when I've talked to him, doesn't seem on the outside that he'd care.

B) Hill and Nunn are both "wings" in a sense, but they do different things. Nunn is more of the knock-down shooter who can also finish real well at the rim. He's more of a two-guard. Hill can step out and knock down shots, but he also is well-known for a good mid-range game. And he's much more of a slasher. I'll let the experts debate if he's a two-guard or a three, but they aren't the same player. It's not an either/or situation. They could both potentially operate well together.

C) The Nunns don't have any problem with Hill being in the fold, should Kendrick potentially choose Illinois. They like the idea, with Melvin Nunn saying Hill was a great player.

larry harnly wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Do you think Bruce Weber will keep all his scholarship offers on the table -- for the players to enroll at Kansas State?  Don't you think Kansas is going to be a more difficult recruiting area than Illinois was for 9 years?

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Bruce Weber's such a classy guy that I don't see him toiling with Malcolm Hill or Jalen James, the committed players, in any way unless a decommitment were to happen. I expect he'll stay in touch and roll over offers on uncommitted prospects who he believes are interested in playing for him and Kansas State, but there's not a whole lot of overlapping between recruits of the Wildcats and Illini from what I can see.

More than likely, Weber won't pull an offer from a player, he'll just turn his recruiting focus elsewhere.

And to the last point, it will be easier and harder to recruit to K-State. Easier, because Weber doesn't have to deal with Chicago. And that did wear on him, take a toll on him. Harder, because he doesn't have an in-state talent base buoyed largely by Chicago to turn to. If you look at K-State's current roster, they have players from seven states and DC as well. You have to trek all over as a coach there.

Does that make sense? Hope so.

Either way you shake it, K-State seems a a good fit for Weber. Kind of a mid-majorish vibe there as far as being more laid-back and a team that wins with toughness, yet it's in a power conference.

Mitch wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Cody, Besides Kendrick Nunn who is John Groce recruiting hard to join the Fighting Illini?

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Jabari Parker is a given. Another player I hear Groce's really after though is De La Salle power forward Gavin Schilling, who's a strong post player. Schilling also has offers from the likes of DePaul, USC, Vanderbilt and Oregon State. Schilling and Nunn seem to be the two Groce's most after right now, after Parker of course.

Other names to keep an eye on. I've heard the name Alvin Ellis, a junior wing who also plays for De La Salle. Look for him to come into the mix more if the Nunn and/or Hill situations don't play out Illinois' way. I know Ellis made some big improvements this past season, and though the old Illini staff didn't offer him, they saw him play often and usually liked what they saw.

Other names to keep an eye on. Proviso East junior wing Sterling Brown and Tinley Park Andrew junior forward Jubril Adekoya, who plays for the Meanstreets AAU program, I believe. Groce and his staff are close with the Meanstreets program.

Those are 2013 names. In 2014, look for Larry Austin, Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Cliff Alexander to be the players most sought after.

Dennis Bialas wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm

When do you think we will start to see some commitments for Tim Beckman's 1st class? After hearing him and some of his staff talk seems like they could get prospects to pay attention real quick. Also will alumni like Dave Diehl and Kurt Kittner be allowed to contact recruits and try and sell them on coming to IU. Is this allowed or is it against NCA rules?

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Alumni can't actively contact and recruit players, I don't believe. As in, they can't pick up the phone and buzz their house while acting on behalf of the university. That's where all the rules come into play.

Now, you can use alumni in different ways to your advantage. For example, there was nothing wrong with having recruits to campus for unofficial visits last August for the basketball alumni game that Deron Williams happened to be playing in. That happens on campus, where more is allowed, and there's no rules against making good impressions.

I'd expect things to heat up for Beckman's 2013 class in June, after the spring evaluation period ends in late May. Seems to be a time in past years when Illinois has started getting more players, and again, there's really no good proof to sell to players right now. And who are the recruits committing in the spring? Usually the top guys. They aren't coming to Illinois, so when the cycle gets deeper and those second-tier players see where the first ones have committed to and where they're still needed, that's when more starts happening for Illinois.

I believe there's plenty of recruits listening to Beckman and his staff, and they should be giving them a chance. But it's a leap of faith right now, and recruits want to see what happens on the field. Beckman likes to remind that this is a marathon, not a sprint. If he got 25 players he wanted, and they all committed the day before signing day, he'd be ecstatic. Probably would drink more caffeine and act like he was never worried, that's how he goes about his job.

SPAGETT wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I keep hearing Beckman and Banks say how last year's defense was good, but they didn't force enough turnovers. I'm very concerned about their philosophy and I don't think Illinois has the playmakers in the secondary to force the amount of turnovers that Beckman wants. I think we'll see a much sloppier defense this year, thoughts?

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Agree on one point, but in general I have to respectfully disagree.

In my mind, the defense will be the strong suit this season. I'd be more worried about an offense that lacks playmakers and consistent offensive line play than I would a defense that was top-10 last season and returns 7-8 guys who were basically starters (I'm including Green who was the third CB on depth chart often). I don't think Banks and Beckman plan on going for broke here. They're just giving coach-speak, saying they really want more turnovers.

All coaches do that. Doesn't mean the defense will turn sloppy because there is such concentration on forcing turnovers, though.

Here's where I do agree: Illinois lacks the playmakers at safety to do everything it wants and force the number of turnovers it wants. Supo Sanni and Steve Hull were too often susceptible to being burnt in the passing game last year. So you have to be careful what you do there, can't leave them on an island against the wrong guy. Maybe they've improved, but it will still be interesting to see how it all plays out and what Banks does.

Cody Westerlund wrote on April 06, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Going to wrap it up. Thanks all for the questions, had some good ones. I'll be around next week, same space, same time. Have a good Easter weekend.