Friday, January 20, 2017 83
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Ask beat writer Marcus Jackson what his commitment means - and who might be next to join John Groce's up-and-coming program.
Good morning and thanks for being a part of a special edition of our Illinois basketball chat. I'll take questions this morning, as long as you have them, in regards to this morning's news about D.J. Williams' commitment to Illinois. Anything else, we'll revisit Thursday when we have the regular chat.
How many scholarships do we have in the 15 class ?
with Williams on board now assuming wants One guard and big man
By my count, after Williams' commitment, Illinois has two more scholarships to give for the 2015 class. We know that can change during the course of the next two years and John Groce and his staff don't let scholarship numbers dictate what they're going to do. But as of this moment, there are two more available slots.
As an Illini fan we've all learned that just when things start to look up, someone is plotting to smear the school with unfounded allegations. It all falls under the "where there's smoke..." rule. The unctuous banter out of East Lansing from Izzo is eerily similar to the smear campaign that Bobby Knight began after the Lowell Hamilton commitment many years ago. And keep in mind that this IU lie eventually led many years later to the Deon Thomas affair. No one at Illinois stood up to Knight publicly or privately. It costs us dearly in the end.
If we get Cliff, will Mike Thomas go on the offensive like Guenther did with Charlie Weiss after the Aurelius Benn commmitment (recall that the charge of illegal recruitment of Benn by Illinois made the NY Times and the Regis and Kelly show). Somehow some way Guenther threatened Notre Dame and Weiss into silence.
Your thoughts on Izzo and what we can do to control his public tantrums?
Just try to relax and enjoy what's going on with your program. I know things have happened in the past, but it's probably best for your health to worry much less about all the bad things that can happen.
Izzo was asked a question directly at Big Ten media day about the recruiting challenges in Chicago. He wasn't speaking about Illinois or any players in particular. He talked about the challenges and all the people involved when recruiting a big-time player from a large city. He mentioned Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and maybe a couple others. It was not an dig at Illinois or John Groce, in my opinion.
I've heard nothing from anyone anywhere to suggest that Illinois might be doing things the wrong way. It's not unheard of for elite players to come here, it just hasn't happened with much regularity in the last few years.
What's up, MJ? Two-parter:
1. Williams mentioned, as most recruits do about their fellow highly-rated friends, that the "first two I get on" are Charles Matthews and Diamond Stone. Matthews, obviously, has long been an Illini target and it's been generally assumed anyway that Illinois would probably be a legit player in his recruitment. It doesn't seem that Illinois has ever been mentioned as anything more than on the periphery of Stone's recruitment. Are Williams and those dudes tight enough that it tangibly enhances Illinois' chances for those guys, making Illinois a serious player for Stone, as well as solidifying them as one of the favorites for Matthews? Obviously Matthews and Stone are a lot higher-rated- and their recruitments could have a year-plus to go- but it seems like the building talent base at Illinois is finally ripe- whether it's Cliff next week or one of the 2015 guys- for at least one 5-star to commit to Illinois.
2. Did Shea McClellan provide more value in the last play of the first Packer drive last night than he had in his previous 23 NFL games combined?
When I talked to Williams this morning about Matthews, he referred to his as his brother. Obviously, they're not related, but they're best friends. "We grew up together," Williams to me. That's a very good sign for Illinois. With players wanting to team up in college these days, it could be a possibility. There's a ways to go with that recruitment, like you said, but it helps having Williams on board. He's also very tight with Milwaukee big man Diamond Stone, and he'll be in his ear, too. The big man is a priority.
Last night was Shea McClellin's signature game as a Bear and as a pro and he might have secured himself some serious good will in Chicago with last night's performance and putting Aaron Rodgers on the shelf. Everything he had accomplished — or not accomplished — in his first season and a half is forgotten. Hopefully it was a turning point for him.
Good morning, Marcus.
First off, I want to say thank you to John Groce for making Illinois basketball fun and relevant again. I mean, who else has done what he has in the short amount of time he's done it? I know Groce hasn't won big yet, and he may never do so, but what he's doing on the recruiting front, well, that's where it has to start. To get a Simeon player to commit early - no one has until now - that's says a ton.
It appears Illinois is looking good with many of the top tier players in the national class of '15 - Bragg, Thomas, Moore, Gill-Ceasar, Matthews, Jordan, Davis, Ali, etc., and with the recent recruiting success, and the possibility of a successful 2013-14 Illini season, Groce could very well get in on other top players in that 15' class. Having said that, IMO, Groce should take two "bigs" in that class. If the Illini should land Alexander, he's probably a "one & done" type, and with Egwu graduating, there will be a need for frontcourt talent and depth. With Williams in the fold, and a really good chance to land a top 10 talent with Charles Matthews or Gill-Ceasar, I hope Groce doesn't rush in regards to Aaron Jordan. I know shooters are important, but having quality post players is of greater importance.
Either way, it would be a great problem to have!
Thanks for your time and patience, Marcus.
The frontcourt isn't going to be as thin as you might think. Maverick Morgan will be a junior by then and you're going to be loaded at the 4 spot with Austin Colbert, Darius Paul, Leron Black and Michael Finke with Paul and Colbert able to play the five, too. If you can get Diamond Stone, you absolutely do it, but I don't see it being a glaring need, seeing as quaity 5 men are hard to come by these days.
Thanks again for taking a few minutes for a special chat. I'll have a little bit more from D.J. Williams in tomorrow's paper and later here online. Matt Daniels will talk to Simeon coach Rob Smith and others for his recruiting blog tomorrow. I'll be back with our regular chat on Thursday this week — a day later than normal — ahead of Friday's season opener against Alabama State.