Sept. 13 recruiting chat

Sept. 13 recruiting chat

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 1:00pm

Football beat writer and recruiting blogger Matt Daniels chats at 1 p.m. Fridays. Submit questions of any kind at any time.

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Greetings everyone. Matt Daniels here for the next hour or so to handle any Illinois football and recruiting questions you want to throw my way.

The past 18 hours have produced a top-30 player in the Class of 2014 committing to Illinois (Quentin Snider) and a tweet from Cliff Alexander saying the big man is coming to Illinois for an official visit on Oct. 26. Pretty big news.

And Illinois football will leave Champaign tonight and make the drive to Chicago for its crucial game against Washington that kicks off tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Soldier Field.

But most of you knew all that already. Let's get going with the questions.



Rich Patton wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Matt - A football player for the Cincinnati football team this past weekend (his last name is McKay) received immediate eligibility this year after transferring to be closer to his ailing grandmother.  Is his situation similar to Ahmad Starks?  Does this give us any insight into the NCAA Starks decision?  

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Rich,

Any insight from the NCAA regarding the Starks decision is hard to come by. No word has come down, still, if the Oregon State transfer is eligible to play for Illinois this season or if he'll have to sit out a year. The wait and see game continues, even though Starks transferring to Illinois happened in late May.

It appears the football player you're referring to, wide receiver Mekale McKay, is in a similar situation as to what Starks is going through. Why his decision was reached sooner than Starks, who exactly knows. That's the way it is with the NCAA sometimes. Regardless, expect to hear something on the Starks issue within the next two weeks since Illinois begins practices two weeks from today.

Trent wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Hey Matt.   With the verbal from snider it seems cliff took notice and scheduled a visit.   Groce needs to seal the deal on the visit .  We don't want him goin to Kansas midnight madness .  Also heard there's rumblings of a 2015 prospect that might commit in coming weeks.   Do you know anything about it and who the player is?                                                                        Thanks

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Trent,

John Groce has had a good track record at Illinois so far of getting commits out of recruits who visit. Kendrick Nunn and Austin Colbert last year. Now Leron Black and Quentin Snider in the Class of 2014. It sure is impressive what he has done when top players arrive on the Illinois campus.

Cliff Alexander isn't scheduled to come on an official visit to Illinois until the weekend of Oct. 26. He is set to visit Arizona this weekend on an official visit, with a trip to Lawrence the first weekend in October. Alexander's visit to Bill Self's team coincides with Kansas' Late Night at the Phog event it holds at Allen Fieldhouse. Not like Groce can push back Kansas' planned festivities for that night, so it seems Alexander will get to witness that in person.

With all the news recently in regards to the Class of 2014 recruits, which is the primary focus for Groce and his staff, the Class of 2015 hasn't exactly entered my thoughts recently. But players like Charles Matthews, D.J. Williams, Jalen Brunson and Carlton Bragg are players Illinois is pursuing and has been for some time.

Henson71 wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Obviously we're all excited about the recruiting roll Groce is on right now.  Help us put in perspective how important getting Cliff is in your mind.  We will have a good team without him, but do you think Cliff would be a catalyst to even better things to come and impact the 2015 class and beyond?

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Henson71,

Cliff Alexander is a premier talent. A top-five player in the Class of 2014. And a player who, as soon as he sets foot on a college campus, speculation will begin about how long he ends up there.

Illinois could have a great team with Alexander in the fold for the 2014-15 season. Illinois could pair Alexander with Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill, Aaron Cosby and a host of other candidates who could fill out the starting lineup.

If Illinois would land Alexander, it would show future recruits that Illinois is for real. It would elevate Illinois into the upper echelon of teams across the country, and put Illinois in the same sentence with the likes of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and other top programs who are in the running every year not only for the national championship, but elite-level, five-star recruits.

ERE wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Coach Groce seems to have a real sincere emphasis on developing these guys beyond just playing basketball-how much do you think that is factoring in to this recruiting? I note Quetin mentioned in prominently.


Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey ERE,

In a word, significantly. Michael Finke told me last night that players get the vibe from John Groce that he is sincere, genuine and cares about players just beyond what they do on the basketball court. With Leron Black, it was Groce sending out scripture messages each day. The bond Groce and Quentin Snider had developed quickly, which played a huge role in the Louisville Ballard point guard picking Illinois.

Groce's pitch to Kendrick Nunn and his family was how Illinois wanted to center its future around Nunn. The man is a good salesman, like most college basketball coaches, but the earnest way he goes about his business is what is making recruits sit up and pay attention to Illinois.

Another recruit Groce has brought in, Austin Colbert, never even considered Illinois until Groce came on board. He noticed what Groce did at Ohio, liked the style of play Groce's team had during the NCAA tournament and quickly developed a solid relationship with Groce and his coaching staff.

California Hoops Fan wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Matt, do you or Marcus have any insight as to why Quentin Snider de-committed from Louisville?  I understand that there can be lots of reasons, but what do you know about his situation?  With Leron Black, it sounds like his stock went up so he decided to look at a stronger basketball school.  That's not the case with Quentin as Louisville just won a national championship.  Is Louisville stacked at the point guard position such that Quentin think he would not get much early playing time?  Thanks Matt. 

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey California Hoops Fan,

Quentin Snider was committed to Louisville for more than two years, so when he decommitted from the Cardinals, it was somewhat of a shock. That and the fact it's his hometown and Rick Pitino's team is coming off a national championship.

The commitment of one-time Illinois recruiting target JaQuan Lyle to Louisville earlier this summer seems to have played a possible role in Snider decommiting. Snider's role would most likely would have changed with Lyle coming on board. Not saying that he'll start immediately at Illinois once he arrives as a freshman, but playing time is a major priority for the elite level recruits when picking out a college. Snider, and his father Scott Snider, both said they know he'll have to earn playing time at Illinios and that a starting spot won't be handed to the younger Snider.

With Leron Black, he seems to have become more educated and familiar with the recruiting process after he committed to Baylor. It was the first official visit the combo forward had went on, so he gave the Bears a verbal and didn't think much of it. His connection with John Groce and the season Groce got out of Illinois last year had much to do with Black choosing Illinois.

Brent Moore wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I think is time to doll out some thank you cards!!

Thank you Shaka Smart for turning down the UofI!!

Thank you Brad Stevens for also turning down the UofI!!

I think it is now safe to say that neither of these two coaches could have done better than what Groce has done thus far.  What he has done, is a dream senario and it could get even better. 

Groce has made Illinois relevant again and with his most recent success recruiting, what coach does he remind you of that has gotten a program turned around so quickly like he has done at Illinois?  Now for the real question! Groce has set himself up to get some serious interest when the next high profile job comes available, In your estimation, what does Illinois have to do to retain him for the long term?  I think our biggest recruiting hurdle in the next 4 years will be to convince Groce that Illinois is where he wants to be! 

Matt, as always, you do a great job!!

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Brent,

Good question regarding what coach does John Groce remind me of. Groce had a solid recruiting reputation when he arrived at Illinois from his stint as an assistant at Ohio State. Maybe someone like Billy Donovan when he arrived at Florida and helped turn a solid program (Lon Kruger did take the Gators to the Final Four in 1994) into a national power by bringing in high-caliber recruits.

That said, Illinois is far from the status of what Donovan accomplished at Florida. Getting Illinois into the NCAA tournament this year will be a tough task, but it appears Groce is bringing in players with his recruiting that should make it a no-brainer Illinois will make the tournament each year and possibly make a run at a national title.

As far as Groce staying at Illinois, he seems to enjoy his time in Champaign-Urbana. Plus he's a Midwest guy with roots in Indiana. At least right now in his career, you don't see him jumping to a program like a Kansas or Duke or Kentucky or North Carolina. But who would have predicted at this time last year that Brad Stevens would coach the Celtics this season. If Groce does continue to keep progressing Illinois basketball at the rate he is, it's a valid point to wonder if he'll still be the head coach here in five years or so. But that's way, way, way, way down the road.

Person 1 wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm


First off, keep up the great writing.  Been a fun couple of weeks here.

Why is there such a need to play our 4 star QB recruit in isolated instances?  Are these couple of plays this year going to do him so much good? I'd rather have a full year red-shirt especially since he has a senior starter seeming to be able to hold down the position.  Is this a recruiting tactic that we need to use to get these guys...hey, you'll play year 1?  I would guess most good football programs redshirt these talented kids and let them absorb year 1.


On the hoops side, can you clarify on Starks.  Does he have one more year of eligability or two?  If one, I'm guessing if he does not get the waiver, he's walking on at this point.  Any thoughts?

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Person 1,

Thanks for reading. Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit said last month during preseason practices in Champaign and at Camp Rantoul that they anticipated using Aaron Bailey this season. They felt he has a skill set that could help Illinois this year, and when you're coming off a 2-10 season and feel players can improve the program, even if they're true freshmen, you play them.

I'll be interested to see how they utilize Bailey against Washington, especially if it's a tight game. And when Bailey might throw his first pass. He has a strong arm, albeit one that might need to work on its accuracy, but through two games Illinois has used him only in running situations.

It does set up an interesting dynamic next year at the quarterback spot for Illinois since Wes Lunt is eligible next year. Based on Bill Cubit's pass-happy offense so far, it seems like an ideal situation for Lunt, who is a pocket passer while Bailey is a dual-threat option. And if you don't redshirt Bailey this year, then he and Lunt will each have three seasons of eligibilty left. Granted, you could throw a redshirt on Bailey next year perhaps, meaning Lunt would use up his eligilibity before Bailey, but that doesn't seem likely.

Getting players on the field was a selling point Beckman and his staff used in bringing together its 2013 recruiting class. Having players like Mason Monheim, Mike Svetina, V'Angelo Bentley, Justin Hardee and others contribute during their true freshman seasons was a pitch the Illinois staff threw out there for potential recruits.

Ahmad Starks has one season of eligibility left. He'll either use it during the 2013-14 season or the 2014-15 season, depending on what happens with his waiver request. If he is granted the waiver by the NCAA in time to play this season, he'll play this winter. If not, he'll suit up next year.

Timothy Paul wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm


Cliff Alexander may be a long shot but with John Groce I think there's a chance we can land him. What do you think?


                        Thanks Tim

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Timothy Paul,

It's a good sign for Illinois that Cliff Alexander tweeted out last night he is taking an official visit to Illinois the last weekend in October.

The Illinois football coaches use this refrain often in saying that the best recruiters they have are the commits and recruits who have signed. That seems to be working in favor of Illinois men's basketball right now. Leron Black reached out to Quentin Snider after he committed, and Snider said Thursday night he would extend the same courtesy to Cliff Alexander. Players these days know each other very well by the time they arrive in college based on their interactions on the AAU circuit and with the way social media is these days.


Anonymous User wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I think all that anyone can honestly say when it comes to Cliff Alexander is that we have a better that 0% chance, but less than 100% chance.  So my question is about the 2015 recruits:

Do the commitments of Snider and potentially Alexander affect in any way the recruits we are considering for 2015?  Do these commitments push anyone out that may have been thinking about coming to Illinois?

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey anonymous,

Good point about Illinois' chances with Alexander. He hasn't completely ruled out Illinois, but he also hasn't come out and said, 'I'm playing at Illinois.'

It seems with the Class of 2015 that John Groce is going after the high-level talents in that class, which consists of players like Charles Matthews, Jalen Brunson, Carlton Bragg and D.J. Williams, among others. Getting players like Snider and potentially Alexander don't hurt recruiting efforts of those players too much. It will be interesting to see if Snider's commitment does anything to change how Brunson's thought process is since they both play the same position.

Getting players in the Class of 2015 is crucial considering the number of scholarships Illinois will have and the fact that most of the transfers will either be on their way out or just finishing up at Illinois by the time the 2015 recruits arrive for the 2015-16 season.

But when you have the chance to get talents like Leron Black and Quentin Snider, you don't wait back and see how that could affect the Class of 2015 recruits. If anything, it's a boost to getting players like Matthews, Bragg, Brunson and Williams, or any other elite 2015 recruit. High school players want to see what the classes look like coming in before them and what kind of recruiting momentum programs have.

Dyno McClain wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Huge hypothetical...Alexander signs (assume Starks gets the waiver and plays this year)......what do you see as the 2014 lineups - starters and first backup for each position.  

Thanks for the chats and write ups.

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Hey Dyno,

Wow. That is a huge hypothetical. Going under the assumption you stated above, here's my take for the 2014-15 Illinois lineup. Again, this is pure speculation on my part.

PG - Tracy Abrams, Backup: Quentin Snider

SG - Rayvonte Rice, Backup: Aaron Cosby

SF - Malcolm Hill, Backup: Leron Black

PF - Cliff Alexander, Backup: Darius Paul or Austin Colbert

C - Nnanna Egwu, Backup: Maverick Morgan

Matt Daniels wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm
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Going to wrap up this week's chat. Thanks for all the questions and interest. Make sure to come back to (and of course, read your Saturday News-Gazette) for a look ahead to Saturday's Illinois-Washington game.

We'll start our live report from Soldier Field well before kickoff, with myself and Marcus Jackson keeping you all informed the best we can.

Need anything else, email me at or hit me up on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG).

Have a good weekend everyone!