Feb. 15 recruiting chat

Feb. 15 recruiting chat

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 1:00pm

Who is Desmond Lee and what was John Groce doing in New Mexico? Ask recruiting blogger Matt Daniels about anything during his weekly chat (1 p.m. Fridays). Submit questions any time.

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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How's everyone doing on this sunny Friday afternoon in Champaign? Great, I hope. Matt Daniels here for the next hour to take in any recruiting inquires. Any and all topics are up for discussion.

Let's get started. By the way, mock selections this morning had Illinois as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Seriously.

Mitch wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Matt, Who is Coach Groce recruiting the hardest in the 2014 and 2015 classes? Thank you very much for doing these chats!

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey Mitch,

Thanks for the question. The Class of 2014 already has one commit in Champaign Centennial big man Michael Finke. Currently, no other scholarships are available for that class. The roster, however, will most likely look different by that point than it does now. Even when scholarships are the way they are, coaches never stop the recruiting process. That was evident this past January with Illinois football. Recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said they were constantly updating their board, which came in handy after some late de-commitments.

Back to basketball, though. JaQuan Lyle, even amid his troubles this week that earned him an indefinite suspension from Evansville Bosse High School, is a high priority for the Class of 2014, although the debate is out there how strong Illinois is in the race to land the highly-skilled Lyle. Aside from Lyle, there's Larry Austin Jr. from Springfield Lanphier, an attacking guard off the dribble with above average athleticism, Sean O'Mara from Benet Academy, although he fits the mold of Finke, so not too sure if he would want to fit into Illinois' plans for the future, Kevin Zabo, a point guard from Wolfeboro Academy in Brewster, N.H., and of course, the big men from Chicago, Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young and Cliff Alexander of Curie.

For the Class of 2015, players like wings Charles Matthews from Chicago St. Rita and D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon and point guard Jalen Brunson from Stevenson are some of the in-state players who hold scholarship offers from Illinois. Carlton Bragg from Cleveland, a forward, is another player Groce and his staff have an eye on, along with Hyron Edwards, a point guard from East Chicago, Ind. Expect the Class of 2015 to garner significant interest in the next few years just with the way the scholarship situation stands right now for Illinois. Groce will have six scholarships to hand out for that class based on the current breakdown of the roster.

ChrisFromMattoon wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

With these offers Groce has put out for next year, obviously he knows someone is leaving correct?  I mean how else could you in good faith offer if you werent sure one would be available?

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey ChrisfromMattoon,

Hope everything is well down in Coles County and the home of the original Burger King.

Commonsense would dictate that, you would think. Why else would he possibly be interested in taking a flight to New Mexico to check out a junior college combo guard like he did last night in Desmond Lee?

It's a sticky situation. The players he has this year, with the exception of Sam McLaurin, were all players brought to Illinois under former coach Bruce Weber. Turnover is not uncommon when a new coach takes over a program. Groce and his staff have a plan. They are very detailed and thorough in about everything they do. Plus they want to win. Badly. All one has to do is watch how intense they are during games.

They're aggressive in their recruiting as well. They have an idea in their minds about what players they want in their program to best fit their style of play. If anyone does leave from the current squad, chances are Groce and his staff will make sure they land at another program that is most likely to give them a best chance to play and contribute.

St Pete Dan wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

What ex-Illini does Maverick Morgan remind you of?

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey St Pete Dan,

Like the question. One that does not have a right answer but could be debated for hours among Illinois fans. Morgan, with his size at 6-11 and at 240 pounds, is certainly putting up impressive numbers this season. Heading into his team's regular season finale tonight against Lebanon (Ohio) High School, Morgan is averaging 24.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks against some quality competition in and around suburban Dayton. Pretty impressive numbers during the course of a 17-4 season so far for Morgan and Springboro.

The name I'll throw out there, and again, just my take, is Robert Archibald. He's got the size and the build Archibald had coming into Illinois, plus from talking to his coach earlier in the season, has developed a nice mid-range game to complement his work closer to the basket. The question with Morgan last summer was how developed he was and how raw he might be. I think he has answered those questions well during his senior season, but then again, the Big Ten is a different beast entirely. I'm not saying Morgan will turn into the next Meyers Leonard, but he has the chance to have a solid, if not superb, career at Illinois.

Joe A. wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Who is likely to have abigger impact next year at the 4 position, Colbert as a freshman or Shaw as a junior? Will Djimde ever contribute?What could he and Shaw provide, and do they have the ability/skills to be able to fit into Coach Groces's style of play as bigs?

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey Joe A.,

Another good question. And another that could be debated for hours with no right answer. Austin Colbert has shown he's capable of some big games since he became eligible in mid-January after sitting out 30 days because of New Jersey's state transfer rules. Then again, like with the previous question about Maverick Morgan, that doesn't necessarily mean he'll come in right away and produce double-doubles in the Big Ten. He could, but very unlikely. 

Mike Shaw has not found a role at Illinois in his two seasons. He was highly touted coming out of Chicago De La Salle, and for whatever reason (Nnanna Egwu's continued development, the production from Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin, among others), has not found that niche this season yet. I see Shaw possibly developing into a steady contributor if he decides to stick around. John Groce knows this better than I do since he sees Shaw every day in practice and in workouts, so I'll leave it to him to decide how Shaw might fit into Illinois' plans for the 2013-14 season.

As far as Ibby, I just don't foresee him contributing anything more than coming in at the end of blowouts. He's very raw, and obviously, with his lack of playing time, Groce doesn't fully yet trust him to put him into any key moments during games. All you have to do is look at his minutes this season to come up with that conclusion.

Anonymous User wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm


I am really concerned about the next couple of years without the prospect of recruiting another bigman.  We lose 2 bigs to graduation at the end of the year.  They will be replaced by a thin 4 in Colbert and a hopefully a more physical 5 in Morgan.  In 2014 we have a commitment from another thin 4 in Finke and no more scholarships.  I then read Groce has offered a 6'4 point/2 JC guard Lee.  WHy another 6'4 guy when we can't rebound in the big 10 now?  We have no scholarships and hope to get either Alexander or Okafor.  Is there any way of getting another big in 2014 that will be more of a physical presence in order to compete in the Big 10?

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey Anonymous,

Well, if Joseph Bertrand can rebound like he did on Wednesday night against Purdue, those rebounding concerns might go away next season.

In all seriousness, I see your point. The future Illinois rosters are lacking those proven big men that can replace what Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin have contributed this season. Then again, Griffey wasn't exactly filling Illinois fans with confidence last season. Maybe Mike Shaw or Devin Langford develops rapidly in the offseason and becomes a player John Groce can count on.

Nnanna Egwu will head into his junior season with lofty expectations with the way his game has taken off this year, which could help ease some concerns. I think the three players Groce will bring in to help the frontcourt in the next three years in Austin Colbert, Maverick Morgan and Michael Finke will provide steady contributions during their first season or two at Illinois. There's a need there, and they might be able to fill it.

As far as getting Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander, the two elite big men in the Class of 2014 not only in the state, but in the country, I wouldn't bank on Illinois landing them. Then again, no one probably thought Illinois would beat Indiana or get a fifth seed in a mock selection determined earlier today, so who knows.

jruss62 wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm


Coach Groce isn't a dumbie he knows that he has a full roster for next year but yet he is still going and I asume offer to players ie.... Desmond Lee last night. So whats up he has to know that someone is leaving. Gives us some of your insight to the world of recuriting. I still think we need a quailty big man, your thoughts.

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey jruss62,

No, I don't believe John Groce is a dumbie. He knows what direction he wants to take the Illinois program. Hence why Mike Thomas hired him, and why he has Illinois on the verge of an NCAA Tournament berth where four months ago many people were just hoping for a winning season from Illinois.

It's easy to speculate about who might be leaving, especially if Groce has offers out to players like Lee who could come in here next season and play. I'll leave that to Groce to figure out. That's why they pay him the big bucks.

Of course, every Illinois fan would want a player like Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander to make the drive down from Chicago and play for the in-state school. They're highly-skilled players who have had monster games at times this season. It seems their college careers would continue the same path, but who's to say Maverick Morgan or Austin Colbert don't develop into better college players? Who would have thought Meyers Leonard would have turned into an NBA lottery pick after his sophomore season at Illinois during his junior year in high school? If there's anyone out there who thought that, let me know so I can ask you for the Lottery numbers next time.

Groce wants Illinois to play fast. They've done that at times this season. Other games, not so much. I'd expect future teams at Illinois under Groce to pick up the pace even more. Having a bevy of big men on top of the ones Illinois already has signed or has a verbal commitment from might not allow them to do so.

Ratchetsondeck wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Who (if anyone) is most likely to transfer at the end of the season to free up some 2014/15 schollys?

Thanks for taking my question

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey Ratchetsondeck,

Tracy Abrams. Joseph Bertrand. Nnnana Egwu.

Kidding. Totally kidding. Those three are players John Groce already has penciled into his starting lineup next year.

As far as possible transfers, speculation (again, only speculation since Groce and none of the players have publicly commented about thsi) would have to center on Ibby, Mike Shaw and Devin Langford if anyone does transfer, which would free up available scholarships that could be used on players in the Class of 2013, 2014 and beyond. I say those three since they aren't getting the most minutes and haven't contribtued much this season.

dennis bialas wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

With the three new coaching additions, did this open any new recruiting territories? Colby having coached at Northwestern hopefully will rekindle some ties up in the Chicago area, and doesn't Cubit have strong Florida ties? What about Bridge?  Seems to me we should be stronger in the St. Louis and Indy areas, because of its proximty?! Are the new guys considered strong recruiters? Any word on a replacement for Gonzalez? Thanks!

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Hey Dennis,

Thanks for the football-related question. I knew there had to be someone out there interested in Illinois football.

Illinois hiring Greg Colby should help bolster the team's recruiting ties in the Chicago area and other parts of the Midwest. There haven't been many places the life-long coach hasn't tapped into for potential players.

With Bill Cubit, he should help make up for the loss of Billy Gonzales in the southern Florida hotbed. He has background there, and anytime you can grab players from the Sunshine State and bring them up north to Champaign, is a recruiting win.

Jim Bridge, the new offensive line coach, was named one of the top recruiters in the nation in 2008 by Rivals.com when he was at North Carolina State, so he brings a strong pedigree and reputation with him to Illinois. It seems with the three new hires Tim Beckman made, he went with experienced coaches who bring instant credibility and name recognition with them. That never hurts in recruiting.

You would think St. Louis and Indianapolis would be strong priorities given their proximites to Champaign-Urbana. We'll see in the next year if that pays off for the Class of 2014. Of course, more than two wins would help out more than anything with recruiting.

Have not heard any word on a replacement for Gonzales, but I'd expect it to be named before spring practice begins in a few weeks.

Matt Daniels wrote on February 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm
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Thanks for all the questions today. I'll be back at the same time next week to delve into more recruiting topics. Until then, everyone have a safe and enjoyable weekend!