Thursday, October 20, 2016 83
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Ask our beat writer about another top-flight point guard, Jawun Evans visiting campus and about the current team during his weekly basketball chat.
Good afternoon and thanks for being here. Another big recruiting weekend for the Illini with Jawun Evans visiting a week after the Jalen Brunson visit. I'll be here for about an hour taking your questions, so let's get stared.
Should we start to panic if Brunson or Evans do not commit within the next week or two? I would think that if either really wanted to play for UI, then they would be concerned about the other commiting first and would want to beat them to the punch. How much would not having a high profile PG committed hurt our chances with Elijah Thomas when he comes to visit?
I don't know if that would quite be panic mode, but certainly the longer you go, the more understandable it is to be nervous about things. You've got to remember, as much as fans and coaches want these kids to commit as soon as possible, these are up there with the most important decisions they will make in their lives. Everyone's different, some want to commit early, others want to take their time.
It wouldn't necessarily help the pursuit of Elijah Thomas, but you'd have to look at the situations at other schools and see what they've got to offer at that position, too. He might have a better idea than anybody at that time about what's going on at the PG position. If neither Evans or Brunson has comiitted by then, he can talk to Jawun and find out how he feels about Illinois.
Can we get a general progress report on the current team (especially the freshmen) since they were able to start practice again?
The current team is now in the second week of workouts. The coaches can work on the court with up to four guys at a time for two hours per week until Sept 15 when they can do two hours with the full team.
Everything is going well so far. Last week the team did the mile and all returning players except for one guy ran the best mile time of their career. Groce was happy that everybody continued to work when they went home for their break and came back to campus in good shape and ready to go. Groce told methis team is in the best August shape of any team he's ever coached. He's excite about their commitment and that translates on the floor.
The one guy who didn't make his time was Mike LaTulip. He ran a 4:53 previously. He was a 4:56 this time. When he ran that 4:53, though, he was 22 pounds lighter.
The freshmen have done really well, so far. Teammates call Leron Black "Savage" because of how hard he plays and how aggressive he is on the boards. He's still learning the system at both ends, but come Big Ten season, he could be a real contributor.
Michael Finke has also done a nice job and he's been shooting the heck out of it. The staff will have a better idea of how each fits in once practices get going Oct. 3.
I know the coaches can't give any specifics as to how the weekend went with Brunson, but were you able to get a gague on how they felt it went in general?
Also, it's great to see DJ Williams and Aaron Jordan helping out with the recruiting. They won't be on the team for another year and yet they already show a desire to help this team win!
Brunson and his dad both said it was a great visit. You typically hear similar things after visits, but from the Illinois perspective, the only way the visit could have gone any better would be if Brunson had committed. It souns, though, that he really wants to get on some other campuses and make sure he has a solid sample before making a decision.
Illinois is still very much in the Jalen Brunson mix.
If Evans commts on his visit what do you think happens to Brunson?
I heard Brunson will take his visits to Nova and Temple.
If that happens, then more than likely Brunson will choose from one of the other four schools on his list. From what I've heard after the visit, Brunson is interested in making some other visits before making a decision.
Was the Brunson visit just indecisive, or did it uncover a problem?
No problems uncovered, just a kid wanting to take his time to make sure he makes the right decision. It truly did go well.
Any update on jalen brunsons weekend? Whats a schedule like for an official visit? Do they spend most the time with the current team? if so who's our best guys on the team for recruiting/ best in the last few years as well? Thanks!
Great visit, honestly, it was. The itinerary varies but it includes tours of all the facilities, meeting all the necessary people (athletic trainers, nutritionist, academic folks, faculty in prospective major, etc.) Brunson and his family went to the volleyball game Friday night at Huff (Sandra Brunson was a college volleyball player). There are meals, including a big one at John Groce's house. Social time with the current players, football game.
Mike LaTulip is really good among the current players. He was with Brunson a lot last weekend. Tracy Abrams is also good. D.J. Richardson was one of the go-to guys and Paul Klee chimes in from Denver and reports that Jamar Smith was also a go-to guy for campus visits.
Marcus, would the staff consider red-shirting Tate?
I don't know, I doubt it. They typically don't start thinking about and considering redshirting guys until the full team practices start. This season that's Oct. 3. That's when you can get the best look at how guys are picking things up and how they will fit into your plans. It's possible, but I doubt it.
I know Coach Groce already has a great start to a good recruiting class this fall, with Aaron Jordan & DJ Williams. A few weeks ago looking at the official visits that were scheduled, I felt pretty good with the visits lined up for point guards & combo guards who could effectively run JG's offense. Since then both Jimmy Whitt & Landry Shamet have verbally committed elsewhere and it sounds like Jalen Coleman does not plan to visit. Our visit with Shake Milton is not for a month & he could very well commit elsewhere prior to his visit, just like Whitt & Shamet.
Other than Brunson, Evans, and Milton I do not believe we have visits lined up with any other point/combo guards. It seems like "the funnel" is starting to get narrow. Is it too late to get in the recruitment of any other ball-handling guards at this time? Are there other players we have been "in-on" that I havent heard about or does this list sound correct?
Yeah, it would be pretty late to get involved with someone at this stage, especially someone good enough who might be able to really help you. Illinois is pretty much rolling the dice witht he guys they still have on the list.
I understand these are anxious times, but there's still a good chance you get one of those three guys.
How often do NBA personnel get in contact with Illini coaches about players. Do you ever see scouts or coaches around Champaign, or does it only happen when there is an Illini player that clearly has pro potential?
When Brandon Paul was here, NBA folks were around quite a bit and stayed in regular contact with John Groce. Didn't see them around much last season unless someone on the opposing team was a potential NBA guy. You probably won't see many of them around this season unless a player or two has a big start to the season and jumps on the NBA radar.
Which current Illini bball team members will be most involved in hosting recruits on their official visits this fall?
They're all involved in some capacity. Usually one guy spends a great deal of time with a recruit and it just depends on the player coming in. They try to match them up with a guy who has a similar personality and or plays a similar position. You'll usually see a younger guy in tyat role since he'll most likely be here when that recruit gets to campus.
Would love to see an article on Leron Black soon!!! Excited to see him this winter.
I would love to see one, too, but Black and Michael Finke are off limits until the team's media day, which is in early October.
I am an Illini fan and have been for quite some time. However, with more and more people on social media and on message boards (i.e. Illinois Loyalty), I feel that "passion" and "devotion" has become mixed with "creepy." I see grown men talk feverishly about 16-18 year old teenagers. It is somewhat scary. I guess these fans always like defend their actions by stating they have an emotional investment to the team so they want the best of the best to represent them. But to me, the active individuals who participate online consistently are no different than teenagers who talk about One Direction online or hard-core gamers who go on message boards for gaming (even though, the response that many get are either they are dumb teenagers or virgin losers who live in their parents basement). What are your opinions of these people?
PS I understand that fans of every fan base does this to some degree. I also think you won't be too harsh (if you agree with the previous statement) about these people since you need them for online traffic to keep your job.
You're right, Illinois fans are a passionate bunch and they care a great deal. I'll be honest, there are some things I see from time to time that fill my head with questions about those individuals. The majority of the chatter and excitment, though, is just fans being fans and that stuff is great.
Me, personally, I'm not of that ilk and that doesn't mean my approach is the right way, that's just my personality. I'm extremely laid back and just watch things as they happen with my teams (Bears, Bulls, White Sox, Blackhawks). If they're winning, great. If not, oh well. But I've got a lot of close friends who are die-hard Illinois fans and they're all right with me. I was on a bachelor party in Nashville this weekend with a bunch of them and they were hitting me up for Jalen Brunson updates every five minutes.
I love all of the fans, creepy or otherwise.
Hey Marcus --
Thanks for the great chats as always!
Saw Landry Shamet comitted to WSU (Congrats to him). And while we've all been obsessing over Brunson and Evans this weekend -- any word from the other Illini recruiting targets that have official visits scheduled? Shake Milton, Jalen Coleman, Doral Moore, Elijah Thomas, etc.? Seems like once the visits are scheduled we all just have to wait for them to get on campus before anything pops, no ?
Keep up the awesome work. Go Thunderbirds.
Good to hear from you.
Yep, Wichita State was the first big-time program to recruit Landry and that ended up paying dividends for the Shockers. He was theirs to lose.
Other than Jalen Coleman, who seems to be headed to Notre Dame, the Illini are still in the mix for all the others you listed. Yes, it's pretty much a wait-and-see with them all. The hope if you're a fan or on the coahcing staff is they make it to campus before making a decision, but it doesn't always work out that way. My guess is all the guys on your list at least make it here for a visit.
I am asking this as a hypothetical situation, but if Groce was able to land Brunson/Edwards, Bragg and Thomas; would this potentially be the next Fab 5 type situation when adding them to the 2 already commited? Seems like a long stretch but Groce has put himself in the situation to land 5 premier recruits.
It would be a hell of a coup and up there with the absolute best classes Illinois has ever landed, but the Fab 5 was extremely special, not only for what they were able to accomplish on the court, but the cultural impact they were able to make.
If Illinois was able to land that dream class you listed, while it's a great class, none of those players is ranked in the Top 10. The Fab 5 had four Top-10 players in Webber (No. 1), Howard (No. 3), Rose (No. 6) and King (No. 9).
If you are John Groce and could simply pick 3 more recruits to finish out the recruiting class, which 3 would you pick and why?
Hmm. Give me either Brunson or Evans because you need a PG and either of them would be make an immediate impact. Thomas because you need a big man and Bragg because of his talent and versatility as an inside-outside guy. But you all also know how much I love Shake Milton's name and I would love to be able to write that as often as possible. Plus, the guy can really play as a shooter and a playmaker.
Excellent stuff today. Thanks for all the questions today. Keep your eyes peeled this weekend for the Jawun Evans visit. if you see him and his people about campus, let us know what's going on.