Beat writer Marcus Jackson takes your questions at 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Ask him anything about John Groce's program or the kids he's courting. Submit questions any time.
Good afternoon and thanks for taking the timeto stop by for another Illinois basketball chat. Hope you saw the Big Ten single plays for the Illini for next season (at Minnesota, at Northwestern and at home against Purdue and Michigan). Tomorrow begins a dead recruting period for the Illinois coching staff, which has been hard at work since April. Those guys will take a few days to recharge then camp season hits. I'll have more info on the summer camps later this week or early next week.
Marcus; Any idea when the UNLV-Illini game and Mizzou games are this winter..I know the Thomas&Mack center plays host to the rodeo in early Dec.and the Rebels usually are forced to play a game at The Orleans Casino which only seats about 8000..Can't see the Illini wanting to play at The Orleans..I usually go to Vegas for New Yrs and was hoping it might be played the last week of the yr..Thanks
The Missouri game is usually three or four days before Christmas, so I'd imagine that won't change. The UNLV game, from what I was told a while back, might be some time around Thanksgiving, though a definite date hasn't been set yet. That game will be played at the Thomas & Mack Center.
May have missed it but there was a lot of talk about the Tulane transfer Josh Davis, did he commit somewhere or has he removed IL from his list? Or did IL move on from him?
Thanks for the chats, good info!
Illinois has been out of the running for Davis for quite some time. He changed his list of finalists three or four times, but I think he was more interested in other programs than Illinois. A few minutes ago he committed to San Diego State, so unless something changes like it has throughout his decision-making process, he'll be an Aztec next season.
I want to thank you for the chats, there are great! With all that has been going on with players graduating, transferring in/out I made a list of the 13 scholarships. If you can look it over and let me know if I have gone wrong somewhere. Thank you
Player. Years. Scholarship. Open
1 Fr Kendrick Nunn 4 open 2017
2 Fr Malcolm Hill 4 open 2017
3 Fr Austin Colbert. 4 open 2017
4 Fr Maverick Morgan. 4 open 2017
5 Fr Jaylon Tate. 4 open 2017
6 Darius Paul (3) open 2017
7 Aaron Cosby (2) open 2016
8 Jr Rayvonte Rice 2 open 2015
9 Jr Tracy Abrams 2 open 2015
10 Jr Nnanna Egwu 2 open 2015
11 Jr Myke Henry 2 open 2015
12 Sr Joseph Bertand 1 open 2014
13 Sr Jon Ekey 1 open 2014
That's some incredible stuff there. Looks like you've got it nailed, as things stand this very minute.
Groce has a nice incoming class and a solid stable of transfers. With that, it seems that 2014 & 2015 recruits may be hesitating on committting to the Illini. Nunn and Tate can't be too happy with the addition(s) of Cosby and possibly Starks. Also, do you know the back-story to Groce's recent raise? Was he courted by other schools which led to the increase?
It's still really early for the 2014 and '15 kids committing. I wouldn't get discouraged yet. Why would Nunn and Tate be unhappy with the additions of Cosby and Starks? They're going to make the team better and the competition will make them better players. Plus, it adds depth to the backcourt and if Starks is eligible this season, it will take less presure off those guys to perform as freshmen.
Groce's raise had nothing to do with being courted, but if he continues moving this program forward the way he showed this year, he will be courted and it was a move by the administration to show a commitment to him early and to show that they value having him here. That could make a difference to him if a few years down the road he has to make a decision between staying at Illinois or taking another job.
If you had to guess, when will the three 2014 recruits everyone is talking about (Alexander, Black, Lyle) likely make their decisions? I look forward to these chats every week, thanks for doing them.
It's honestly so hard to tell with these things. Every kid is different. We've seen some of the elite-level guys like Jabari Parker and Andew Wiggins go really deep into the recruiting process before making their decisions. I think Lyle is a guy who likes the attention, so he might prolong his decision beyond the Novemeber early signing period. But I think one the evaluations pick back up in July is when you'll see the 2014s start coming off the board at a regular rate.
Hope you saw Michael O'Brien's stuff in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday. His coach says Illinois is right there with Michigan State and the Illini have made up a lot of ground the last month or so. That's one to watch.
Thanks for the chat MJ. I understand why Coach Groce wants to have some easy non-conference home games for his 2013-2014 team but as a fan I would like to see one or two high quality teams play at The Farm. What are the chances that the remaining home non-conference games will be against high quality opponents?
I wouldn't anticipate that happening. Groce thinks the schedule is already pretty tough as it is. He was asked something along similar lines last season and he pointed out the fact they play Mizzou every year and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a game at the UC, plus they're returning games to UNLV and Auburn and they're going to Portland to play Oregon. It's important to try to win quality games away from home in terms of impresing the NCAA selection committee. The feeling is the 18-game Big Ten schedule (nine at home) will provide plenty of opportunities for quality opponents at home.
It seems to me that we might not hear anything one way or the other about Ahmad Starks until the NCAA makes a ruling on whether he would be immediately eligible to play if he transfers. When would he expect to hear from the NCAA about their decision?
Thanks for the chats.
What's going on with Henry and Starks?
Seems like Starks will be here and Henry won't at this point
Marcus, thanks for chatting with us. Any idea on when we hear something official on Henry and Starks? What's the hold up?
When do we expect the freshmen class to be on campus this summer?
Starks is sorting through some things and waiting to hear back from the NCAA on the waiver. Those things are handled on a case-by case basis, so it's hard to put a time frame on them. However, expect to see Ahmad Starks in an Illinois to finish his college career, whether that's in 2013-14 or the following year.
My understanding is Myke is also trying to figure some things out and the reason we haven't heard anything yet is because there hasn't been a definite decision mad eon whether he's staying or going. My guess is he'll be gone, but he's still very much in the process of figuring out what's best for him.
The freshmen class and all the newcomers will be here sometime around June 7 to begind summer workouts.
What is the latest on Starks? All has been quiet on that front. Is he our only option for a 5th year point guard?
Where does the schools like Kentucky and Kansas get the money to pay their
coaches huge salaries when compared to Illinois? Our state is a lot bigger
than their's, so you would think we would be able to pay as much as anyone.
A good chunk of John Claipari's nearly $4 million annual salary comes from Nike. His base salary from the university is only about $400,000 and the rest of it comes from media obligations and endorsements (Nike). Nike shells out so much dough because when Kentucky is good, it's good for business. Kentucky will be all over TV screens every where and Nike will reap the benefits by selling Kentucky gear. Kentucky is a bigger brand than Illinois, therefore, Nike is willing to pay more to that program.
Is Darius Paul considered a true, back to the basket, banger, rebounder, power forward? Given Finke appears to be a spot shooting 4 will they complement each other at the position appropriately for the 3 year span both of them will be here together?
Yes, Darius Paul is a true power forward. He can score on the block and can also face up from midrange. He's not a stretch 4 like Tyler Griffey was or Jon Ekey wil be. He and Finke will be used in different ways while they're here together, giving some flexibility and variety to the offense. Finke will be used to spread the floor, while Darius will defend and rebound well against teams with more physical front lines.
Any chance we can get out of the UIC scheduling contract in the near future? This does not benefit us or build excitement with our fan base.
I haven't looked at the actual contract, so I'm not sure when that expires. My understanding, though, is Mike Thomas and John Groce will honor the terms of that deal and if an opportunity presents itself to amend that part of it, they will do just that.
Even without any additional recruits(although I know this won't happen), what do you think is the realistic best case scenario on how the 2014 season will pan out? I'm usually realistic about the Illini, I wasn't expecting a Big Ten championship or a complete devastating season this past year, but I always thought they could get to the sweet 16 with Paul, Richardson and crew. I have very high hopes for the 2014 season though, I think they can achieve great things with the pieces they have in place. I wouldn't be totally surprised if this group of guys made it to the Sweet 16 and maybe a round or two further, would you? I know this is a ton of speculation and potential based but it can't hurt to think like this right, especially if the guys buy into the system.
It's so early, I don't even think the roster is set yet. Best-case scenario at this point is this team finishes somewhere around seventh in the Big Ten and gets into the NCAA tournament seeded somewhere between 8-10. I think last year's team overachieved big time, considering everything that happened in the offseason and how strong the Big Ten was. The NCAA tournament showing was remarkable. Would I be surprised at a Sweet 16 run? Absolutely. I don't think the way things are right now that a Sweet 16 is realistic, but we'll have to see how things come together between now and the season. There are so many new faces and so much will depend on how the freshmen contribute and adjust.
What is your best guess for a starting lineup for next season and how would the rotation look?
I think I did one of these a couple weeks ago. This is assuming Henry is gone and Starks is coming and eligible immediately.
Abrams, Rice, Bertrand, Ekey or Colbert, Egwu.
Hill, Nunn, Starks, Morgan likely as the main guys off the bench with Tate also getting some minutes.
That's just a guess.
With all the transfers coming to Illinois. Do you think the 2015 class is more crucial for Groce.
I think all recruiting classes are crucial, regardless of the transfers. But the 2015 class will be one that the staff will have had plenty of time to build relationships and making a splash in that class will be important for the coaching staff. I feel that's when you'll really be able to see the recruiting ability of this staff show.
I've got to cut it a little short today. I've got some NCAA tennis obligations this week, so I'm headed over the Atkins/Khan complex to get going with some of that. Hope to see some of you over there the next 12 days. Should be a big-time event.