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Ask Paul Klee about Demetrius Jackson's weekend visit, John Groce's workout regimen and Tyler Griffey's career path during his weekly chat, which gets going at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Afternoon everyone. Paul Klee joining you for another Demetrius Jackson chat. I'll take questions on Illinois and college basketball, as well. We'll go in order today and I'll be here for about an hour before going back to Ubben. Fire away. Klee
What types of things would a recruit(such as Demetrius Jackson) do on an official/unofficial visit? Tour? Pickup games with the team? Football game is obvious. Would Coach Groce want to give a tour or would he want one of the players to?
DK- Wrote about it Sunday. Read it here. Coaches tailor recruiting visits to fit the prospect and his personality. Demetrius Jackson is more of a low-key homebody that seems grounded and isn't into 5 a.m. parties, so there was a lot of interaction with coaches and players, to get to know them. There was a bowling outing. His team won. He scrimmaged with the current Illini. They attended most of the Illini football game. There were campus tours. There was a meet-and-greet with Belleville East star Malcolm Hill, who would be in Jackson's 2013 recruiting class at Illinois. The visit went very well. To answer your final question, John Groce has a major hand in recruiting visits. He's on the tours, whether it's a borderline-Big Ten prospect or a blue-chip recruit, and usually walks faster than everyone else. As I've said before, this staff is extremely detailed with recruiting visits. Klee
How did Jackson's visit go? Does he have a time table for making a decision?
If he decided to go elsewhere who would Groce turn his efforts toward?
Brian- See above. The official visit went very well. Illinois is in a good position with Jackson and the staff has done an admirable job to put itself in a good position with a prospect of his caliber. As for a timetable, it is expected that he will take other visits. That, like everything else in recruiting, could change. As for your final question, RaShawn Powell (out of Florida) and Dayshon Smith (New York) would be on the short list of lead-guard prospects. Alabama is strong with Powell, as well. Hope that helps. Klee
Supposing Demetrius Jackson told the staff that he plans to take all of the visits he has scheduled before he makes a decision, how hard do you think Coach Groce's staff pushed him for a commitment while he was in town? Just thinking with many more visits to come it may not be a good sign...your thoughts?
Dave- Here's where I try to answer the same question in a different way. It would help the Illini's cause if KU - and others involved with Demetrius Jackson - land other point guards. To answer your question, obviously Illinois tried to get a commitment. That's the objective of recruiting, and Demetrius Jackson is their No. 1 target and a potential program-changer for a program that needs one. He fits what they need in many ways. Klee
Awesome job covering the Illini as always.
My question has to do with the bigs. When I, as a fan, look at our situation, it seems as though in terms of experience and physicality that we're going to be on the outside looking in when it comes to post play in the Big Ten. Who do you see as the one who is under the most pressure to produce in the post this season?
Benji- It's a good question. I wouldn't characterize it as pressure, really, but Illinois needs Nnanna Egwu to play well. You have fewer options at center and at the point than other spots. He's had a good offseason. John Groce adores Nnanna's work ethic. Even so, it's always been my belief that offseason workouts aren't an indicator of the type of season you'll have. But coaches are optimistic big Nnanna will make a sophomore leap. Klee
Mr. Klee: Ther'es some disagreement on the 'message boards' about JG's defense... you said repeatedly that its a packed in defense... i dont think that's true... what makes you believe this?? Thank you for always great info... don't know what we do without you
Sam- To answer your question, what makes me believe this, four players have described the defense as a "packed in" or "pack" defense. So I tend to take their word for it, since they practice it every day. D.J. Richardson described it as a defense designed to take away the three-point shot and dribble penetration. When I talked with Tyler Griffey last week, he gave another great interview, and he described it like this:
“We've got more freedom (on offense). Even on the defensive end I think it’s going to help me and some of the guys that aren’t as quick," Griffey said. "It’s a pack defense. Your positioning is your help. We’re not going to extend and deny a pass. We’re going to let them catch it and then we attack and get after them. It’s different defensive principles, but I think it’s going to play more to our strengths.”
It is worth nothing, too, that Ohio led the MAC and ranked 10th nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense last season. Illinois ranked 316th. Hope that helps. Klee
I am going to make this a mult-part question... I live in Spokane and have family from Illinois coming out on the weekend of December 8th. Is there anyway I can get in on some tickets for the game with Gonzaga through an Illinois connection (ie the group of tickets they are given for the game)? If so, who would I contact to inquire of that? Would it be the Athletic department?
Also, how do you see Illinois matching up with Gonzaga this year. I think this may be the most difficult year of the four for Illinois to pull out a victory.
Thanks for any help you may be able to offer.
Nathan- Don't believe you'll be able to go through Illinois for Gonzaga tickets. Best bet would be going through Gonzaga, although it will be difficult to get tickets through the box office. Or you could talk to my good friend Matt Goodwin, who lives in Spokane and has a magical way to land tickets when no one else can. Stop by one of his fine establishments - the M Lounge, Marquee, Press or Fast Eddies - and tell him to take it easy on my fantasy team this season. As for your second question, it's mostly the same Gonzaga team you saw last season, although the Zags lost Robert Sacre and "add" another pair of 7-footers in Kelly Olynyk (played two seasons but took a redshirt last season) and Przemek Karnowski (big guy from Poland) and a swingman in Kyle Dranginis (redshirt freshman). Otherwise it's the same roster. One piece of news from the Gonzaga game: Tipoff will be 9 p.m. CT on Dec. 8 (ESPN2). Don't know if that's been released yet. Klee
Paul, do you think because Demetrius Jackson is taking additional visits that Illinois is now at a disadvantage because they did not secure an early commitment?
Anonymous- No, I think you're looking too far into it. The official visit was a great help. The new Illinois staff is in remarkable position for a prospect of his caliber. As I said earlier, it would go a long way if Kansas secures another point guard in '13. That would help. Klee
I understand this is 'old news' but please address if you have not alrady. Why was Lewis Jackson (Decatur) not recruited to Illinois... i hear bad grades/attitude... your thoughts on 'LewJack'... thank you for your 'tell it like it is'
Bob- No problem. I've answered this a few times over the years, but I can only answer the questions I'm given. Lewis Jackson's grades were no more of an issue than several players that signed with Illinois since then. It wasn't a matter of "attitude," as you put it, either. That's not why Illinois didn't take him. His size was a factor. And the former Illinois staff was torn over Lewis Jackson, split almost 50-50, on whether it should've pursued him with a sincere offer. He wasn't a star, of course, but he would've fit nicely as a complementary piece to Demetri McCamey. One was a scoring guard, the other a tough defender. Recruiting misses happen, though. The best guard in the Big Ten is from Columbus and he's playing his college ball in Ann Arbor. These things simply become more of a talking point when Jackson goes 7-2 vs. Illinois. And recruiting local kids is a whole different ballgame. You're about to see a similar scenario with Champaign Centennial standout Mike Finke, who wrote his first recruiting diary for us on Sunday. Hope that helps to answer your question. Klee
Has Brandon Paul gotten back to his pre-injury weight? Also has he started participating in scrimages yet?
Anonymous- Yes, Brandon Paul is back in workouts and feels great about that. He was looking forward to it. That was a lot of time to miss for a guy going into his senior season. John Groce tells me that Brandon Paul's immediate challenge will getting his conditioning back to pre-broken jaw levels. "I don't worry about Brandon in those areas," Groce said. "You know how meticulous he is with working out, taking care of himself. He'll get there." Hope that helps. Klee
Hey Paul...you asked me to ask again in a week on the 24 second clock in college hoops issue, so here I am. I'll put my journalism degree to use for the first time in years and ask a follow-up question: you mentioned- accurately, in my view- that it would widen the gap between the haves and have-nots, for obvious reasons (more possessions = the better team being more likely to win, the elite programs having the pro-caliber athletes to play that style, etc). So my question to you is, would the widening of that gap be a good or bad thing for college hoops?
Mike- Thanks. Think that goes back to the NCAA tournament argument. We prefer the first-weekend upsets. But we want the big names in the Final Four. George Mason was a great story, but the 2006 Final Four that included George Mason didn't garner as much interest as a Final Four with, say, four No. 1 seeds. As for your question, I don't think it's a bad thing. There still would be upsets, because the better mids (the teams that are in the NCAA tournament) already are as good or better than most of the high-majors out there. Those better mid-major rosters usually have older, mature guys. Hope that helps. Klee
Hope you had the chance to read our report from Sunday about the Illinois basketball manual that was introduced by John Groce's staff. Thought it was one of the more interesting and telling developments of the new era. Here's the story again.
Going to wrap this up. It's remarkable what this chat has become, and it's a testament to the interest in Illinois basketball. So we appreciate all of the questions. Hopefully we covered every angle of Demetrius Jackson's recruitment/visit to this point. Look forward to Sunday's News-Gazette. We'll have a full page on Illini basketball, including an interesting lead story from one current Illini. I'll be on with Steve Kelly on SportsTalk from 5-6 p.m. tonight if you have more questions. Thanks. Klee