Is Michael Finke going to commit to Illinois? Ask prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner, who's been covering high school sports for 30 years. He's chatting at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday but submit questions any time.
It looks like there's a lot on our plate this week, so we will jump right in. We appreciate the interest in these weekly prep chats.
In the last couple months all we've heard about on the basketball front is John Groce's search (sometimes sounding like a desperate search) for a point guard. No stone has been unturned. Yet when Groce came to Illinois, he had two 3-star rated, high-major caliber point guards ready to play for the Illini (Jalen James and Michael Orris). Why was Illinois so quick to sever ties with these bonafide point guards when good point guards are hard to find? What qualifications is John Groce looking for at that position?
Hi Hal. I went straight to the source on this one, our men’s basketball beat writer Paul Klee. He said there are two main reasons why those ties were severed. The coaches deemed they weren’t good enough and didn’t think the two point guards fit how they want to play. For both players, Klee said, it was an amiable basketball divorce. They realized there would be opportunities for more playing time at other places. As for your second question, John Groce is looking for a number of qualities in a point guard. He described those qualities here:http://www.illinihq.com/sports/illini-sports/mens-basketball/2012-06-30/...
Fred,Is Urbana going to win the Big 12? I think they will beat MacArthur and a toss up with Danville if Sheffield is good to go.7&2 or 8&1 first round playoff at home with first ever playoff victory.
Hi Tom. Urbana will certainly be the favorite this week, but there are a couple of points to keep in mind. First is that the Tigers are a playoff lock and the home team, MacArthur, is very much fighting to keep its hopes alive. If the Generals win this week and again in Week 9, they will be playoff-eligible with a 5-4 season record. By my calculations, MacArthur could wind up with 41 playoff points if they can get to five wins and most years, that is enough to qualify. If there is any letdown on Urbana’s part, this is a game that could potentially slip away. As for the Big 12 title, I think there’s an excellent chance for the Tigers to earn a share of it, but little hope they can win it outright. Urbana and Bloomington are currently tied with 5-1 records in league play. The Tigers have MacArthur and a tough Danville team to end the regular season. Bloomington wraps up with Eisenhower and MacArthur. The Purple Raiders should wind up 7-1 in Big 12 games, so the question is whether Urbana will match that or fall a game short. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I am really excited about the Week 9 finale sending Danville to Urbana. It could be one of the area’s top games for the season and that’s saying a lot because we have had some terrific ones already. By the way, has anyone noticed that the school MacArthur lost to 10-7 in the season-opener (Jerseyville) is now 7-0 after coming off a 2-7 season and that the head coach who is turning things around is former Champaign Central coach Dave Jacobs?
Thanks for answering our questions here.
It looks like Illinois has room to take 5 scholarship players for 2013, but I thought that I've heard talk about possibly taking 6. Could you clear this up a bit? If there's only one spot left (after Hill, Morgan, Nunn and Tate) how does the staff handle this last spot? There still seems to be strong interest in Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Austin Colbert and Ben Moore. Would the coaching staff only take one of these recruits?
With fewer spots open for 2014, who do you see at the top of Coach Groce's list of recruits for that class?
Hi Bear. Once again, I deferred to our men’s basketball beat writer Paul Klee because he has so much more knowledge on the subject than I can even imagine having. Here’s what he had to say: “If you can get Rathan-Mayes and Colbert/Moore, you take both. Whether it’s through a transfer or otherwise, scholarships have a way of coming available. Under that scenario, Illinois would take six. John Groce sees a great need for ballhandlers. Those will be the priority in 2014. And Keita Bates-Diop (Normal U High) also is a priority.”
Fred,who do you have on your list for Player of the Year?
Hi Tom. I knew that question was bound to come up sooner than later! Let me list what I consider the top contenders through seven weeks (which I emphasize is really the halfway mark for teams that reach the state finals and play 14 games!!!). I’ll list these alphabetically because I know of no better way to rank them at the moment. St. Thomas More receiver Kevin Carroll is as good at the position as I’ve seen around here on the high school level for years. He made catches two weeks ago in the game at St. Joseph-Ogden that brought one thought to mind: Superman. And, he’s not just a receiver, but also a punter and a key defensive player. Urbana’s Cameron Mammen is not only as good as advertised, but in my opinion even better. Week after week, the senior quarterback puts up outstanding number and demonstrates exemplary leadership even though I’m sure every game plan since Week 1 has been designed to stop or at least neutralize him. He is not only the best quarterback statistically in Champaign-Urbana history, but is rapidly moving up the ladder as one of the state’s all-time greats. I don’t think you can underestimate Chase Patton’s value to the undefeated St. Joseph-Ogden team. Take the running back out of the Spartans’ lineup and I’m sure they are not 7-0, but probably sitting on the brink of being a playoff bubble team. The other most viable candidate, in my mind, is Villa Grove’s Ryan Pearce. I’ve said before — and have no reason to change my mind — that he may be the most complete three-sport male athlete in the area this year. He is the epitome of the throwback athlete from yesteryear who is outstanding in whatever sport is in season. Those would be the leaders in my mind, but I would add that Bismarck-Henning, LeRoy and Unity all have outstanding candidates who aren’t far off the pace and it wouldn’t take much for them to get into the conversation, too. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out during the next seven weeks.
I had the opportunity to watch some video on Jaylon Tate and he showed pretty well. If I understand his story correctly, he was at DeLasalle with Mike Shaw and was a key player for them--a bigger fish in a smaller pond. When he transferred to the ocean that is Simeon he got lost in the shuffle a little bit but now has played his way into more of a prime role. Do you think he got lost in the recruiting shuffle because of his transfer?
Hi Big Dave. My understanding is that Tate has always been regarded as a top 20 prospect in his class, even while at DeLaSalle. Even though he was a backup last year to Jaleni Neely at Simeon, Tate had his moments. He came off the bench to score a team-high 11 points in the 4A state semifinal game and had eight points in 20 minutes in his team’s two-point title-game win (a game where Kendrick Nunn scored five points). If he was, in some quarters, under the radar it was because he was learning a new system after the transfer and then was behind a proven point guard. If he hadn't committed to Illinois in the preseason, it might have been harder to get him later. With a full season, and playing to his potential, he may well have received many more high offers.
What a wonderful assortment of questions this week. Thanks to all who participated. We will be back next week for more questions.