Dec. 14 recruiting chat

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 1:00pm

How will Michael Finke fit in now that he's committed to Illinois? Who are all these juco football players coming to campus? How about Mav Morgan's start to his senior season? Ask recruiting blogger Matt Daniels anything and he'll get back to you. He's chatting at 1 p.m. but submit questions any time.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:00 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Welcome everyone to another Friday afternoon recruiting chat. Matt Daniels here for the next hour until 2 p.m.

Lots to cover today as Illinois men's basketball pulled in its first commit for the Class of 2014 on Wednesday, Champaign Centennial junior forward MIchael Finke.

Football continues to add to its Class of 2013 (up to 27 commits now) as signing day arrives for them in less than two months.

Let's get it going.

Bo — 01:00 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

I think Finke is a great player, and will be a potential 4 star 50-75 player when final rankings are released, but does his commitment mean that Groce believes he has 0 shot with the top bigs (Okafor, Alexander, White) in the state for 2014? Lots of rumors about a transfer, but even if someone does transfer and gives us another scholly, is that one reserved for a PG in the likes of Lyles or Austin?

On another note, it's extremely depressing to me to think about the talent that the state of Illinois has for 2013 and 2014 and us potentially missing out on everyone. I think that this is 100% a byproduct of the old regime, and has nothing to do with Coach Groce, but I don't think that it's acceptable to miss out on the 2015 guys (Matthews, Williams). I'm very much hoping this doesn't turn into a situation watching our old coach go to the National Championship game all the while thinking, "BUT CAN HE RECRUIT?"

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:05 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Bo,
I'll try to go through this question step by step. With Michael Finke's commitment, right now (again, I repeat, right now), Illinois would not have an extra scholarship to hand out for the Class of 2014. That being said, the rumor mill will most likely run rampant about possible underclassmen who were brought in under Bruce Weber and the possibility of them leaving, which could free up another scholarship to use for the Class of 2014.

Things tend to work out in such a way if a coach is really going hard after a particular player for said player to eventually arrive on campus. Some of the underclassmen Illinois has on its roster right now might not be in Champaign-Urbana a year from now. You're never quite sure how much a roster will change, especially with a first-year head coach on the sidelines. Not saying that's right or wrong. Just the way it is.

I don't think with Finke's commitment that John Groce and his staff will stop keeping tabs and pursuing players in the state in the Class of 2014 like Jahlil Okafor and Paul White of Chicago Whitney Young,  Cliff Alexander of Chicago Curie, Larry Austin Jr. of Springfield Lanphier and others. That said, it does diminish Illinois' chances of landing one of them just from a numbers situation. We'll just have to wait and see what transpires there.

If another scholarship does open up, you'd have to think Groce and his staff would try to target another ball handler, one in the mold of an attacking point guard who can get to the rim and still play the role of distributor. Losing Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson after this season will significantly hurt Illinois' backcourt, even with Tracy Abrams returning for his junior season and Chicago Simeon teammates Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate joining the fold next season.

As far as missing out on some of the state's top prospects in the Class of 2013 and 2014, Nunn and Tate are on board, along with Belleville East's Malcolm Hill. Hill is probably the second-best prospect among the senior class right now behind Simeon's Jabari Parker, and Nunn could be considered in the top five. Plus, if Finke continues to develop the way he has in the past nine months, he should headline the list of in-state prospects for the Class of 2014, so I don't think, by any stretch, that Illinois is missing out on everyone from those two classes.

The expectation will be there now for Groce and his staff to bring in a solid, if not spectacular, Class of 2015 since so many scholarships will most likely be available for that class. The work they've done in their first eight months, on and off the court, should certainly help in that regard.

Tom Egelston — 01:06 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Matt,Cam Mammen set up his official visit for Illinois. I know Tim Beckman likes Cam and his ability and determination.i believe he will be signed. I do know he won't accept anything less than a full ride which he has earned. He is now getting a lot more attention since he made all state first teams and many other awards.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:10 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Tom,
I agree with you in that Urbana High School senior Cameron Mammen has earned nothing less than a full ride to play college football after his stellar prep career with the Tigers. The key development to watch with Mammen — besides if Illinois offers a scholarship to him, which I believe they want to, it just comes down to a numbers game — is what position he wants to play in college and what position colleges are wanting him to play.

No matter how much he rewrote Urbana's records for passing during his time playing just down the street from Memorial Stadium, he's not being recruited to Illinois to play that position. Which isn't a bad thing. Urbana head coach Nathan Watson told me Mammen was his team's best wide receiver. He just happened to play quarterback.

I think he'd be of more value to Illinois on the offensive side of the ball than on the defensive side of the ball, especially given the number of defensive back recruits Illinois has in the Class of 2013 (seven, assuming Reon Dawson could play a defensive back) compared to wideouts (four, and that's assuming Michael Hermosillo moves to a wideout and Caleb Day is used on offense and not defense).

Joe A. — 01:13 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

3 questions. 1) Does Coach Groce and the staff see much more in Michael Finke than the recruiting services, or is this tacit acknowledgement we had no chance with Okafor or Alexander, the much more highly rated big men? 2) Or does Finke's skill set match our style better than the others, making him the better fit?  3) How can the staff effectively go after another point guard (like Lyle or Austin) now that all 13 scholarships are used up for 2014? Can they ethically still leave offers on the table when they have no scholarships to give?

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:19 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Joe,
I'll try to give you three answers. First question, Finke is a late bloomer. No colleges of any sort had contacted him or shown any interest in him at this time last year. That changed during the summer when Wisconsin and Iowa were the first high-major schools to offer him, and continued to pick up recruiting steam this fall with interest from other high-major programs like Florida and Indiana, among others.

As far as Okafor and Alexander, their recruitments started even before they got into high school. College coaches were aware of them before they had ever played a high school varsity basketball game. With those type of players, and if they continue to develop and progress like Okafor and Alexander have, it's much harder for coaches who haven't been in on the recruitment since the get-go to have a realistic chance with those players.

While Illinois wasn't one of the schools initially showing interest in Finke, they did start to get involved shortly after Wisconsin and Iowa offered, building a relationship with Finke and his family. Of course it favors Illinois since Finke's father, Jeff, played football and basketball at Illinois. That said, if John Groce and his staff didn't believe Finke could develop into a player who could help their system, there's no way they offer him a scholarship. The fact they landed a local player of his skill set, however, is a recruiting win for Groce.

"Yes, he's a local kid, but he was being recruited by a majority of Illinois' Big Ten rivals," Joe Henricksen, publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, told me. "The last thing you want to do is lose a local kid, and a double whammy is to lose a kid to a Big Ten rival. It was imperative for them to get this done. To their staff's credit, they used the relationship they had built with them. This little surge of success (this season) has kind of revitalized the basketball program, and he's right there in Champaign seeing it front and center. There's no way anyone that's that close to the program and close to Champaign can ignore it. I think it's a great fit for both sides."

Second question, his skill set does seem to fit better with the current system Illinois is playing. He brings size but also a shooting touch not many players of his size have. Like Dave Telep, ESPN's recruiting analyst, told me, they'll run plays for Finke at Illinois.

As far as your third question, it's always better to offer scholarships and have them out there for players than to not offer them. Once a school offers, it's essentially up to that high school player on making a decision on if they'd like to go to the school and also when they'd like to decide. It's almost like a first-come, first-serve basis. If, say, Larry Austin Jr. committed right away after Groce offered him a scholarship a few months ago or Jaquan Lyle did the same thing, it affects how a staff approaches the recruiting players still left in a particular class.

As far as effectively going after another point guard given that right now, no scholarships are out there, is a hard sell, no doubt, but that's the current reality given the numbers situation. Groce and his staff have an idea of what they want their future teams to look like, and will go about shaping the team how they see fit.

Scotty — 01:19 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

What does the committment of Finke mean for Larry Austin?  Will they still recruit him?  Last time I checked they still need guards who can handle the ball.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:23 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Scotty,
I touched on this a little in the question above. Illinois will still keep tabs on Larry Austin Jr. to see how he progresses. The recruiting efforts for the Class of 2014 is most likely not finished for Illinois, as much can change between now and next November when high school juniors start to sign letters of intent.

You are correct in that future Illinois teams will need guards who can handle the ball. Losing Brandon Paul after this year will be a significant loss, especially with how he has played so far under Groce.

With the current roster and incoming recruits in the Class of 2013, you're looking at Tracy Abrams, Mike LaTulip, Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn as the primary ball handlers, with Joseph Bertrand and Devin Langford possibly having to chip in with some ball handling for the 2013-14 season depending on how much LaTulip and Tate see the floor. Tate has looked impressive so far in Simeon's first two games. I expect he'll continue to get better as the year goes on.

Bernard R. — 01:23 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Tell me why should I be excited about the committment of Finke?  I don't see him ranked on Scout at all and on rivals he's a 3* ranked #149. 


Other than Nunn and Hill, Groce has only brought 3* players and transfers from mid-major programs.  We continue to be bridesmaids when it comes to getting highly ranked recruits.


Am I being tough on Groce or is it realistic to think he continues to wiff on recruits?  At this rate I see know star recruits coming here until the 2015 class, which means we won't be in big ten title contention for another 4 years.   That's another 4 years from now and only if he is able to deliver in 2015 recruiting.


 


 

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:30 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Bernard,
The best days of Michael Finke's basketball career are ahead of him. He'll continue to develop under one of the top high school coaches in Central Illinois and the state in Centennial's Tim Lavin, plus he knows he has to get better. He knows he has to get stronger. He knows he'll have much to prove since he's the first commit in the Class of 2014, plus he'll want to ensure he wasn't just ushered into Illinois because he's from Champaign and his father played at Illinois. The motivation factor is there for him to improve his game drastically before he arrives on campus.

Recruiting rankings don't necessarily mean a player will be an All-American or the 11th man off the bench when they get to college. That said, I'm not sure what other system could be devised in order to reflect a high school player's potential. \

I don't think Groce is whiffing on recruits at all. He's hit on Kendrick Nunn, a player who had official visits lined up to UCLA, Ohio State, Marquette and Memphis. His first visit was to Illinois. He committed that weekend. To me, that's one Groce nailed. Making sure Malcolm Hill stayed committed to Illinois — he committed under Bruce Weber — was a huge key to the whole Class of 2013. Once a coach leaves and a new coach is brought in, all bets are off on if a recruit who initially committed to the previous coach will stay on board. Groce was able to keep Hill on board.

I think by the time some of the final stars and rankings will be unveiled for the Class of 2014, Michael Finke will be a four-star player, for what it's worth. As far as a Big Ten title, Illinois, at this moment, has just as good a shot as anyone else in the league. They are undefeated at 11-0, a position practically no one saw coming and with a record a large majority of Division I teams wish they had less than two weeks before Christmas.

Bill S. — 01:30 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

With the recruitment of Mike Finke, who else do you think are priorities for the class of 2014.  Also any chance of more scholarships opening up in the future.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:34 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Bill,
The top priority for another player in the Class of 2014 would have to be another guard, one that can score, pass, handle, drive the team bus if he had to and fix any pants that John Groce might rip during a game. Seriously, though, Jaquan Lyle from Bosse High School in Evansville (Ind.) would be a huge get if another scholarship does open up. He's a guard that can perform the scoring, handling and passing aspects at a high level right now, plus he's got the size (6-4, 180 pounds) that would be ideal in a physical conference like the Big Ten.

As far as more scholarships opening up in the future, there's always the possibility of a player or two currently on Illinois' roster to leave the program at some point, but no action has happened yet, and who knows if any will.

Illini fan in Minnesota — 01:34 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

After a horrible first season I see everyone pretty much wants Beckmon fired. Now it's not all his fault but he does have some blame in what went wrong this past season. To me, with all the so-called talent that was here at times it seemed as if once something went wrong or against us the team just collaspsed during the game. We already had deficiencies to start the season anyway and didn't need anything negative to compound the problem. And more than anything at lot of times it seemed like players quit and their effort wasn't at 100+ %, (primarily the offensive line and the defense). Now I know if there's gonna be a chance of making the team better it will happen with recruiting, but so far our primary need isn't being addressed. Our offensive line has been MIA the past 2 seasons and with the current crop of recruits its not looking good for the next couple seasons too. Why is this area being overlooked? We're only going to be as good as the guys up front improve. Now I do understand that upgrading the overall talent is necessary, but the group of guys that are returning and the new guys coming doesn't bode well for next season. Why isn';t improving the offensive line being addressed more agressively? This is key to Beckmon keeping his job, another year like last season and unfortunately we'll probably be once again looking for a new head coach...GO ILLINI

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:38 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey Illini fan in Minnesota,
I knew there were some of you out there. Illinois football fans. All joking aside, you're right. Everything goes through the offensive line. When the offense is moving the ball effectively, making sure there's enough time for quarterbacks to throw and giving running lanes for backs to scoot through, the offensive line looks like a million bucks. When the quarterbacks are running for their lives and no holes are opened for running backs, the offensive line looks anything less than a million bucks. So far, Illinois has three commits in the Class of 2013 (high school seniors Jesse Chadwell and Austin Schmidt, along with JUCO lineman Dallas Hinkhouse) who are offensive linemen, with Christian DiLauro, a tight end from Green (Ohio) High School, likely to be converted into an offensive lineman in the future.

As far as being overlooked, I think the Illinois coaching staff is addressing immediate needs with this class as they realize they can't go through another 2-10 season and likely keep their jobs. It's rare for true freshmen to come in right away and start on the offensive line. Hinkhouse is a bit more developed, so he might find himself in contention for a starting spot. As much as this probably pains Illinois football fans, the offensive line Illinois will have next season will most likely feature players currently on the roster and returning starters from a unit that struggled mightily this fall. If Illinois had a better year, you might have seen a few of the recruits coming in be offensive linemen who can develop into a starter two or three years down the road. That didn't materialize.

palatine_ty — 01:39 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

What are the chances that Groce and co. try to persuade players to transfer or phase out some of the guys toward the end of the bench to make room for more kids in the 2014 class? I'm thinking of guys like Shaw, Ibby, etc.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 01:46 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Hey palatine_ty,

I don't think Michael Finke will be the only commit for Illinois in the Class of 2014. That will mean some players who are currently on scholarship right now will have to leave or transfer. It's simple math. It's interesting to think that some of the current underclassmen players Illinois has didn't leave shortly after John Groce was hired. That's always a possibility when a school brings in a new coach. It's happened often at my alma mater, Eastern Illinois, when the school has made two men's basketball coaching changes in the last seven years, and is common throughout at other programs across the country.

You saw it more on a recruiting front with Groce, with Michael Orris and Jalen James getting out of their letter of intent and commitment, respectively, shortly after Groce arrived. Players, for the most part, commit to a school based in large part on the relationship built with a coaching staff. Yes, other factors contribute such as tradition, location, playing style, etc. But the relationship players develop with coaches when they're as young as 14 does contribute significantly in the recruiting process.

Guys who aren't getting much playing time right now, like you mentioned with Shaw and Ibby, are obvious choices to speculate about possible transfers. We'll just have to see what transpires.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 02:01 PM on Fri, 12/14/2012

Going to wrap up this week's chat. Thanks for all the questions! I'll be back at 1 p.m. next Friday for another chat before the holidays hit the calendar.

Have a great weekend everyone.