Sept. 18 college hoops chat

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:00pm

Ask beat writer Marcus Jackson about Cliff Alexander's upcoming visit, Quentin Snider's role and Michael Finke's potential. Or anything else about John Groce's up-and-coming program during his 2:30 p.m. Wednesday chat. Submit questions any time.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:28 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Good afternoon and thanks for staying up late for today's illinois basketball chat. We're a couple hours late, thanks to me having a couple of meetings today. Spent some time with Jon Ekey today. You can read about the transfer from Illinois State on Sunday. I'll be here for about an hour taking your questions and I'll be on WDWS 1400 today from 5:10 until 6 with Michael Kiser. Call us there if you have any additional questions 217-356-9397, 800-223-9397.

Timothy Paul — 02:28 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


Was it surprising to hear that Alexander was going to take an official visit to Illinois Oct. 26th, because I thought he wasn't going to take anymore visits to Illinois? Im guessing getting Black, and Snider has made him really consider them. And it can't be a coincidence that he tweeted his intentions after Snider committed. Thanks for these chats, I look forward to them every week.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:30 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


It was a little bit surprising that Cliff tweeted that out last week. But I had heard a few weeks back that Illinois was still a possibility for an official visit, but you can never be sure about these things. They change every day. Having other good players in the fold for the 2014 class helps tremendously with regards to Cliff and his consideration for illinois. There is more than a month, however, between now and when he is scheduled to make his visit here and there are millions of possbilities between now and then.

Joel — 02:30 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

The 2014-15 team looks loaded with talent. Is this the most talent the Illini have every had?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:34 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013



I know it's an exciting time, but let's not get carried away. The 2005 team had five guys who played in the NBA. There was some serious talent on that team. The 1989 team was loaded with pro talent, too. Even some teams that didn't reach the Final Four had a bunch of talent. The late Lon Kruger teams and Bill Self squads with Frank, Sergio, Marcus (not me), Bradford, Brian Cook, those teams were talented. Let's just take a breath, let these guys get on campus and then figure out how good they can be.

Anonymous User — 02:35 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

I read some tweets this week that Alexander is good buddies with JaQuan Lyle and would love to play with him.  I know Lyle was at one time on UI's radar.  Does Snider's committment put the kabosh on Lyle or will UI look at Lyle in hopes to get Alexander as well?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:36 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

JaQuan Lyle is not being pursued by Illinois. Cliff is. If they really want to play together, then chances are Illinois won't be getting Cliff Alexander. My guess is if they end up playing together in college, it will be at Kansas.

Rich Patton — 02:37 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Marcus – We did not get a commitment from Demetrius Jackson but picked up Quinton Snider.   In terms of your (and the recruiting gurus) predictions, did we come out ahead, behind or about even?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:40 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


It's hard to say. If you're going strictly off rankings, then behind because Jackson was rated a little bit higher and ended up as a McDonald's All-American. But truthfully, I'd say it's about even. Both are true points, with an above-average feel for the game who will be able to run an up-tempo offense and be an extension of the coach on the floor.

Jack Straw from Wichita — 02:41 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Hi Marcus, thanks for the chats -- I look forward to them every week.

Already we are hearing about John Groce being a candidate for the next big-time coaching opening.  Assuming he goes on to do great things over the next few seasons, why does that automatically mean Illinois will lose him?  C.J. Moore (college basketball writer) recently identified Illinois as, at worst, a Top 25 job in college basketball coaching.  Other than Duke, North Carolina and Kansas (and maybe Kentucky and UCLA), is there really that much incentive to leave one Top 25 coaching position for another?  Would it be asking the impossible for Illinois to keep a guy like Groce for the longer-term (like Thad Matta at OSU or Tom Izzo at MSU)?  Can Illinois compete monetarily with these other Top 25 programs?    

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:46 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


I wouldn't have included the parentheticals with Kentucky and UCLA, they absolutely belong with the rest of the programs you mentioned.

First off, there's still plenty of work to be done here at Illinois before you have to seriously worry about John Groce being highly coveted by another big-time program. I've been asked about this a lot and my gut feeling is he's here for the long haul. His family loves it here, he and his wife are both from Indiana and their families are regulars in Champaign. That stuff matters to them. I think he'll be a lot like Matta and do similar things here at Illinois that Matta has done at OSU. Illinois can compete monetarily to a certain extent. Mike Thomas will make sure they money part is taken care of, but when you're talking about potentially paying a guy $4 million and more, then I'm not sure if they'd be willing to go there. We'll see, but I don't think there's any need to worry about losing your coach.

Nathan — 02:47 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


Do you think Alexander even makes it to his visit given his recent statements about wanting to play with Lyle and both visiting Kansas on the same day?  I think Lyle decommitting from L-ville really hurt Groce's chances of landing him.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:49 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


Excellent question, it's something that's crossed my mind because Illinois is the last of Cliff's official visits. I don't get the feeling he will commit or be ready to sign with a school until the spring, so if that's the case then he does make it to his visit here. Like I said earlier, if he and Lyle absolutely want to play together, then it's not going to be at Illinois. So many twists and turns with this recruitment daily, it's tough to get a real feel for it.

Illini fan in Kansas — 02:50 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Is there ANY chance that Illinois has of getting JaQuan Lyle?  Espn reports that Lyle says Kansas would be the one school that he would find difficult to turn down due to his relationship with Jerrance.  I ask because Cliff tweeted last week that he and Lyle will be playing college basketball together.  Please don't let these kids go to KU.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:51 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Illini fan,

No, Illinois is not going to be a factor in JaQuan Lyle's re-recruitment.

Dwight Allen — 02:52 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

The goal is to get the kids of Illinois to come to Champaign...It's OK to get some of the kids elsewhere but the blue-chippers should be coming to the University of Illinois! It seems to me that they have an advantage over other schools...yet never have had that kind of success...that stinks!

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:54 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


They should be coming here and Illinois has a lot to offer, like you stated. But the UI has never consistently gotten the top players in the state to come here and with the way the national powers have been making Chicago a priority over the years, it will ermain difficult. You don't have to get all of them, but get one or two of the top guys every so often. You can't put all your eggs in one basket and getting top guys from other states is a great alternative. As we've seen recently, this staff isn't afraid to do that.

Trent — 02:54 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Hey Marcus!

    How do u feel about all the stuff goin on with Cliffs recruitment.   To me he is makin this whole thing into a big circus.  One day he tweets something and then another day its something else.  Im beyond over it.  I love the class we already have.


Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 02:57 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


It seems as though Cliff really lovs the attention and it's hard to blame a 17-year-old from enjoying the process. Some handle it differently than others. No one way is right, though I can see how some can be turned off by it, particularly if you follow every twist and turn. Your class is already very good, with Cliff, it would be better, obviously.

MikeM — 02:57 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Hey, MJ. Kind of a generality-laced question here, but do you think it's possible, in today's social media-tweaking recruiting climate, that it's truly possible for a blue-chipper to just straight-up shock everyone with his college choice? I ask this because both Myron Metcalf and Eamonn Brennan at ESPN wrote about the surprise of Quentin Snider picking Illinois over UCLA, when in fact it would only have been surprising if one stopped paying attention right after his UCLA visit; in the days leading up to his announcement, everyone pretty much knew it was Illinois.

So, yeah, there are some minor surprises and change-of-directions here and there. Andrew Wiggins to Kansas was kind of surprising because the narrative focused so much on if he'd go with the familial pick with FSU and or cement the Greatest Class Ever (™ Dave Telep) at Kentucky, but it wasn't a stunner. I'm thinking it would be very, very hard for a blue-chipper to absolutely shock us unless Vince Gilligan produced his recruitment somehow.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:00 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


I like the question a lot. If we were to see a complete surprise commitment or signing, it would be a very, very rare situation. I'm talking like less than 1 percent of all the commitments. Like you said, there's just so much attention paid to every word said and every move made that it would be hard for a player or his family to kepe things quiet unless they truly wanted the announcement to be a surprise. That just doesn't seem to be the case anymore and even if a family wants to keep things quiet, there are so many outlets following and digging into these things that it's nearly impossible.

Rap Snacks — 03:00 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

When Illinois opens up practice in nine days, how much access does Groce grant you to watch the action? With so much uncertainty to the roster it would be great for someone to have a birds eye view for at least a couple practices. Any buzz at the end of workouts?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:03 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Rap Snacks,

There will be very little if any access to watch practices. As a former classroom teacher, Groce treats his practices like the classroom and that doesn't allow for outsiders to observe. The buzz is from an individual standpoint, guys have continued to improve and team chemistry continues to grow leaps and bounds. Won't hear how it's all come together until they can get together on the court for extended full-team practices.

Anonymous User — 03:05 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

What the biggest changes you see in the way the Illini play the game (both offensively and defensively) based on this year's roster? 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:08 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

I think at both ends of the floor, you'll see a more aggressive, up-tempo approach because there will be more depth. Now, that includes five freshmen, but those guys are going to play. So, they'll push the tempo on offense a bit more because there's no need to worry about guys being overly fatigued. A guy gets tired, next guy comes in to give him a break. Defensively, I don't know that they'll pick up more full court, but they've got the flexibility to do so with the depth.

Nick N. — 03:08 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Hey Marcus...Regarding Groce becoming a candidate for a bigger job, wouldn't it take something like a North Carolina becoming open to lure him away or potentially Kansas if Self finds his way to the NBA? Can't imagine him taking another B10 job? And I would imagine Thomas is willing to pay up to some extent to keep him? Also, what do you see as a realistic goal for this year's team? top half of the conference and another NCAA appearance? Thanks. 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:11 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


As I said earlier, I see him being here for a while, but you just never know until it all plays out. Mike Thomas will make sure he does whatever it is in his power to keep John Groce here.

I've been saying all along I see this team being somewhere in the 7-10 range in the Big Ten. If you're at the high end of that estimate, that keeps you in the NCAA tournament conversation. There are just so many unknowns. The tournament is a goal and it's possible, but you might be living on the bubble for much of the year.

die hard Illini fan — 03:12 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

How are the potential point guards at Illinois such at Tate reacting to the signing of Snyder a player who will very probably start from day one and thus take playing time from them. Does it make the possibility of a transfer more likely thus opening up another scholarship for next year?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:15 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Die Hard,

Not much reaction. For one, they can't talk about unsigned players. But all it does is add more competition to the position.The possibility of a transfer is always out there, especially in this day with so much movement. Nothing at this time tells me Jaylon Tate is threatened by Snider coming along and competing for playing time.

Carlos Danger — 03:17 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Two random questions....

Have there been any unannounced delays for the State Farm Center renovations?  What can we expect from Matt Bollant's squad this fall?

Third question...

What was the biggest story of the offseason (post-NCAA tournament to the start of practice) for the Illini men's team?  The number of transfers?  Body-building (Ray Rice/Egwu)?  SEAL training?  Freshman new-comers?  Recruiting hype?


Thanks MJ, love your stuff....

"Danger" is my middle name

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:22 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

Mr. Weiner,

Nope, no unannounced delays that I'm aware of.

The women's basketball team will be intersting to follow. They're going to be playing without a true center, which might present some problems in the Big Ten with some big frontlines. It will be a guard-oriented attack and should be fun to watch. They've had the chance to recruit players to fit what they want to do. As far as wins and losses, I don't have a good grasp on that. Might be a little bit better than last year.

The thing that's received the most attention, based on the questions I get on here and in public has been the recruiting buzz. People are already asking if the 2014-15 team is the most talented in school history and every uncommitted player on the board, most fans assume Illinois can get them. I'd say it's far and away been recruiting.

ewallj — 03:22 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

With Coach Groce's recent successes in recruiting. have any of your fundamantal thoughts about Coach Groce, or the future of Illinois basketball changed?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:25 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


My thoughts haven't changed at all. I've felt from the beginning with Groce's ability to recruit at a high level and his ability to develop players and coach and make adjustments throughout the course of a game and a season that he could have great success at Illinois. We've only seen a small sample to this point and there's a long way to go, but I've always felt that he could get the ball rolling in the right direction here to build something and nothing has happened to make me feel otherwise. You've got a great coach with a great staff who can raise the profile of this program.

Groundhogday LOVES Dan — 03:25 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


I've started to read on the various, local message boards, the concern some have in regards to retaining John Groce for the haul.

I happen to believe John Groce has a vision on what he wants to do/achieve at Illinois.  And I believe Groce is committed long term!

Why else would Groce take an active part in regards to the Assembly Hall renovation?  That tells me a ton.  It tells me he (Groce) knows in order for Illinois to be a truly "elite" program, it needs to have facilities that can catch the eye of the elite prospects.  And you and I both know it takes elite prospects to win championships.

Thanks for your time and patience.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:27 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


All excellent points on your part. I don't disagree with anything you presented. We'll just have to see how the next couple of years play out and see whether your coach sticks around. I think he does.

Illini fan in Tennessee — 03:27 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

We have 13 scholarships and for the 2014 - 2015 year and they are distributed as follows:  Abrams, Egwu, Rice, Hill, Morgan, Nunn, Tate, Colbert, Paul and Cosby.  Additionally, Finke would get Bertrand's scholarship, Black gets Ekey's scholarship and Snider would get Starks' scholarship if Starks plays this year.  That is all 13 of the available scholarships.

If Cliff Alexander would decide to attend Illinois, where do we get the scholarship for him.  Would the coach tell one of the scholarship players that he would honor the scholarship but that the player would probably get no playing time and that he might be better off to transfer?  Would it be possible for a player to drop his scholarship for one year and pick it up the next year?  I don't think we would want to tell Cliff that we can't take him so what would be your best guess as to how we could provide a scholarship for Cliff?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:30 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


The scholarship question seems to really worry so many. It's fascinating to me. There are so many things that can happen over the course of a season that could change the situation with regards to openings and such. A guy could be unhappy with his playing time or his role and decide to leave. A guy could get in some serious off-the-court trouble. You hope that doesn't happen, but it does. There are so many possibilities. I don't know how it will work out, or that it even will. The majority of the time it does.

Chief33 — 03:30 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

How should Illinois fans be feeling after Cliff Alexander's recent announcement regarding Jaquan Lyle? Even if there was room for Lyle at Illinois, isn't it a safe bet that Coach Groce is content with the highly ranked point guard he already has committed?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:32 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013


My feeling is that Illinois is beyong excited about the point guard it has lined up for 2014 that they're not re-enteirng the JaQuan Lyle sweepstakes. What that means for Cliff Alexander? If he really wants to play with Lyle, then it's not good news in terms of his chances of landing here.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 03:34 PM on Wed, 09/18/2013

I'm going to wrap it up for today. Some good stuff today. Thanks for all the questions and for those I didn't answer, I hope you found your answer in another of the questions. I'll be working on some Jon Ekey stuff for Sunday and will have one more full-page of college basketball in Sunday's section.