Questions about John Groce's recruiting, program, barber? Beat writer Marcus Jackson's the man in the know. He chats at 12:30 p.m. each Wednesday. Submit questions early to improve chances of them getting a response.
Good afternoon and thanks for taking the time to come by for another Illinois basketball chat. A lot has happened since we last spoke with the commitment of Leron Black over the holiday weekend. Make sure to tune into Sports Talk tonight with Steve Kelly and me from about 5:10-6 p.m. We will talk to Leron about his commitment. I'll be here with you for about the next hour or so answering questions.
With Black committed does that leave any scholarships for the 2014 class left ?
I was thinking only had 2 but can't remember for certain
I believe that the one time Louisville coming (Snider if I remember right ) is visiting this month
Do we have a legitimate shot with him ? Groce still hasn't landed the playmaking point he wants
If Ahmad Starks gets the waiver to play this season, then Illinois will have one left for 2014. If he doesn't, they don't have any.
Quentin Snider is visiting at the end of the month, Sept. 27-28ish. Illinois is scheduled for a home visit with him Monday. That's the first day they can have contact with him off campus. He trimmed his list to seven last week and Illinois was on it. He visited UCLA last weekend. Yes, they've got a legitimate shot, but Michigan State, UConn and Oklahoma State are also on the list. Competition will be stiff.
Do you think Leron's verbal helps or hurts with Big Cliff? I have to think that with Colbert, Paul, Finke and Black in the fold, the PF spot is getting crowded. Even if Cliff is better than all of them, I have to think he'd rather see his future team adding excellent guards who can get him the ball and keep defenses honest. And with another PF in the mix, doesn't a dynamic PG become more important? Is Snider now more important for the Illini than Alexander?
If anything it helps. The two have talked in the past about playing with one another, so they're open to that possibility. The position is loaded, but Black is capable of playing the 3, too. Cliff reminded folks of that with a tweet earlier this week.
If you can get Cliff Alexander, you get Cliff Alexander. It would be great to have a dynamic point guard, but the only one remaining out there with whom Illinois has a shot is Snider. The guard position will be fine with Cosby, Nunn, Abrams, etc. on the roster in '14-'15.
The staff seems settled on Quentin Snider or Cliff Alexander for the 2014 class. How do you see this situation playing out if both want to commit? First come, first served?
Those are the only two players in the 2014 class Illinois is actively pursuing, yes. Cliff said this week that he most likely won't commit anywhere before the November signing period, so if Snider does pick Illinois, it would be before Cliff does and they're not going to say 'No' to him. I really don't know how the situation will play out if they're booked in terms of scholarships. That's something we'll all have to wait to see play itself out.
Which would be the more valuable get for the Illini, Alexander or Snider ? and Why?
They're valuable for different reasons. Alexander would be monumental because it's a Chicago kid who is the arguably the top player in the country. You don't get a lot of chances with those guys. Snider would fill a needs for the type of guards they've been trying to land since they got here, but as I said before, it's not crippling if you don't get him because there are guys in place capable of playing that position.
Any news on preseason event?
There are some ideas being floated around about a potential outdoor event on campus, but nothing has been finalized yet. I've heard potentially an event at the corner of Wright and Green. Should know more within the next couple of weeks.
When a player is on an official visit, are they receiving calls and text messages from other coaches or do the other coaches respect their time when on another's campus? When a player commits, how generally does the word get released? Hope to see you and Bob on the golf course again soon.
Good question. Coaches from other programs can contact recruits while they're on official visits to other campuses. A few coaches do it, but most of them don't out of respect for the process.
There are a number of different ways the word gets out on a commitment. Most often, the player himself or someone in his family will spread the word, either through social media, or directly with a member of the media with whom they've dealt in the past or it just travels through word of mouth.
Bob's doing great an he actually played a round of golf a few weeks ago. Every club in his bad — driver included — travels exactly 150 yards.
So where does Black fit in a possible lineup - small 4, big 3, huge 2 - and is a potential starter out of the gate? His signing affects current players and future recruits how? I ask because the Rivals people are listing him and Alexander in the same position.
Black is a stretch-4 type of guy with a develping skill set that could allow him to play the 3. He's a lot like Roger Powell, but he's taller and has a longer wing span. He affects other guys in the sense that he's a very good player they'll get the opportunity to play with and will make them better. Black is listed as a 4, but he's a different 4 than Cliff. Cliff's game is more about raw power and they'd be able to play at the same time as Leron can stretch the floor a little bit more.
if starks gets a waiver next year what are the odds he starts over tracy? it seems starks could be a better fit than tracy with his ability to shoot from 3.
I don't think he'd necessarily start over Tracy, but there's a good chance they's play and started along side one another. Tracy is a natural 2, who has turned into a point guard, so that role wouldn't be uncomfortable for him. It would depend on matchups. They'll have options, which is a good problem to have. Ahmad has also played off the ball quite a bit, so the roles between the two could be interchangable.
I'm not sure Cliff is an Illini fit. He seems like he likes the attention. What is your feeling on Big Cliff coming to the Illini. And is he worth holding out on?
If his personality didn't fit, they wouldn't have spent this much time on him. All these kids like attention and they get plenty of it. If you can get Cliff, you take him. Yes, he's worth it.
Realistically who is the next recruit we get? Everyone wants Alexander, Snider, etc... But who do you think the next guy is? It is just refreshing to have a coaching staff that is getting these kids on campus to at least look. To look at rankings and see Illinois mentioned with the four and five stars is nice. Also, looking at last years team, isn't it realistic to think Groce and his staff can make a positive run with this group? Everyone says 10-11 in Big 10 and I say we will all be surprised.
Well, it's going to be one of those two, as I don't see a '15 guy making a move this soon. Between the two, Snider will be the first to commit whether it's Illinois or one of the other six schools on his list. Alexander might not make a decision until after the early signing period in November.
They could surprise some folks this season, but with so many new faces and unknowns coupled with the strength of the league, they've got a ways to go.
First, do you have any details regarding the preseason event for basketball?
Second, percentage wise, what's your PERSONAL guess on landing Alexander or Snider? Lets lay it out there and be for real.
Enjoy your work.
Possible outdoor event, though that's just an idea being floated around right now.
I'm horrible at guessing and percentages, but here you go, and I'm only doing this because you were so forceful (and respectful) in asking: Snider, 40 percent chance and Alexander, 25 percent chance. It's just so tough with recruiting because things change from hour to hour, especially when you're going up against the elite programs in college basketball.
Thanks for these great chats!
As excited as I am about the future with these recruits, I want to focus on the upcoming season as well. I think that our team this year may end up surprising many, especially if Coach Groce and the staff can get them to really come together and fight as a TEAM.
What is your sense of how team building is going this year? Are Tracy or Nnanna emerging as leaders? Rayvonte? What do you think is going to be crucial to that process? It really is something to bring together all these new recruits and transfers. For some reason I have real confidence that Coach Groce will get it done....
Rooting for Illini from the Center of the Sports Universe (Boston),
The team chemistry is something that has gotten better by the day. The thing about these guys is they all like each other and that's not something you see a lot. As I told you earlier this summer, Tracy said from the time they did the SEAL training about two weeks into the summer to the final week of summer workouts, the team work and chemistry improves greatly. It's something that will continue to grow the more time they spend playing on the court with one another. That aspect of the game was a focal point throughout the offseason schedule.
How frustrating is it to the coaching staff that the Starks situation isn't figured out yet? I did not imagine it would take this long for a decision.If Snyder or Cliff don't commit, and Starks is approved for the waiver, who do you think is the next likely target? And what position do you think would be the best for the last scholarship?
I think it's frustrating for everyone involved, but with so many guys transferring now across the country in college basketball, there were so many of these things for the NCAA to sort through. If he gets the waiver and neither of those guys picks Illinois, there's no one else in '14, so they might hang on to it for the next class, or look at a transfer to fill a hole if they feel they have a need after this upcoming season plays out.
Good afternnoon, Marcus.
I am not happy with how quickly Finke verballed to Illinois. Sitting back and looking at what "could" happen in regards to potentially landing Alexander and Snider, and the scholarship thing, it seems Finke's recruitment was rushed. That's one recruitment I would have liked to seen drag out.
I believe the same thing is happening with Aaron Jordan. I'd rather Groce drag that one out, because he has studs targetted in Charles Matthews and D.J. Williams. I say this because to me it seems unlikely Groce would take three wing players in 15'. I would rather have someone like Matthews and Williams, instead of Jordan.
Thanks for your time and patience.
I'm not sure where to go with this one. I'll have to respectfully disagree. When good players are available whoyou feel can help your program, you take them and sort everything else out when you get there. What if they passed on Finke and Alexander and Snider both left Illinois off their list of finalists. In the nine months since Finke committed to Illinois, he'd likely be off the board now. Illinois wasn't the only Big Ten school, or high-major program after him. He wasn't just going to sit around and wait.
Then Michael FInke goes to Wisconsin, or wherever, goes 10-0 against Illinois in his career and we have another Brian Cardinal/Lewis Jackson situation on our hands. Jus tmy opinion.
What are the options if Cliff Alexander does not choose the Illini? Will this be viewed as a failur to recruit Chicago again or does Coach Groce just need more time and W's?
It's not a failure. Cliff's likely to end up and Kansas or Michigan State, or somewhere like that. He's among the elite of the elite and can go wherever he wants. They're in the game and Illinois is a very serious contender. You win some, you lose some, but it is not a failure if he doesn't choose Illinois. I think it's impressive they've remained in the mix this long with him. They've done everything to tis point they can with his recruitment.
So does getting Black lessen our chances with Alexander, or is it a done deal anyway that he goes to Kansas and we are covering ourselves with Black?
No, it doesn't lessen the chances. And Black isn't a guy they're using to cover themselves if they don't get Cliff. He has been a priority for a very long time whether Alexander was a likely get or not. Jamall Walker and John Groce put in a lot of work with him, they wanted him no matter what.
Did you hear anything on Michael Finke over the spring and summer? Is he projected to be a legit starting PF or is he a future bench guy? The PF looks crowded with him, Paul and Black.
Michael had a great summer with his AAU squad. He will be a factor in the rotation at some point in his career. That could be right away, or as a sophomore. Leron can play some 3 and with Darius Paul, all those guys will be used in different roles kind of how Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey were used last year. Finke isn't coming here to sit the bench. He'll compete for laying time and if he earns it, he'll play.
It seems like it's been quiet on the Illinois home front for 2015 with the likes of Brunson, Mathews, etc., although I heard D.J. Williams from Simeon was visiting soon. Should we be concerned yet or are we still in play with all hour home state 2015 kids?
Those guys are still very much in the mix, it's just that with '14s now able to take official visits, the focus has been on getting those done and locking up commitments, like last week with Black. Illinois is still very involved with those guys, there's only so much you can do at once. D.J. Williams was here last weekend and, like all visits, it went well. Illinois has positoned itself well with him and all the in-state targets in the Class of 2015. Long, long way to go with those guys.
Do you have any insight on when a decision will be made regarding Stark's eligibility for this season? If he doesn't play how does that effect our scholarship numbers for next year?
I don't know, the coaches don't know and Starks doesn't know. The NCAA hold the key there and we won't know anything until they make a decision. If he can't play this year, then Illinois has no more scholarships to offer for 2014 as of right now.
Is there any chance an Illinois tournament invitational will be seen in my lifetime?
Would love to see a tournament in which the state schools play, (Ill, NIU, SIU, EIU, WIU) etc. face each other and then the Chicago city schools,(Depaul, Loyola, UIC, Chicago St.) et. play against each other with the State winner and City winner playing each other in the final.
This would be tough to organize but I think it would be great for basketball as a whole in the state of Illinois.
I like the idea, but that's unlikely. Just too many games to commit to. I'm sure Bradley, Northwestern, SIU-E and Illinois State would want to get in on that, too. Too many scheduling hoops to jump through, plus from an Illini perspective, they've got very little to gain from an event like this.
Apparently Kentucky's Rivals guy is proclaiming Illinois the new leader for Cliff following Leron's commitment. (I don't have a subscription.) Please convince me that I shouldn't run around my office in my underpants spraying beverages everywhere after hearing this, or tell me there's reason I should.
Please, under no circumstances do what you described in your question. First of all, no one wants to see that. Second, I love the passion, but that's just too much excitement over the decision of a 17-year-old kid. A few recruiting experts feel Illinois is a potential front runner for Cliff, but I don't see it that way. They're still battling for him, but not enough has changed in the last few days to get excited.
That's going to do it for this week. Great stuff today. I promise you, if anything happens with regards to Ahmad Starks, I will let you know. Until then, enjoy the rest of your week and enjoy the football game Saturday (if that's possible). Talk to you all again soon.