CHAMPAIGN — John Groce doesn't pigeonhole recruiting into a specific time frame.
"You're always recruiting," the Illinois coach said Friday after a team workout at Ubben Basketball Complex. "You can never stop recruiting."
And that includes the 2012 recruiting class, which currently is comprised of Crete-Monee senior Michael Orris. The guard signed with the UI in November and visited campus Wednesday.
With the early departure of Meyers Leonard, the UI staff has two more scholarships available in the 2012 class. If Groce uses one or both — and there's no guarantee he will — the coach said there would be a focus on adding size to the frontcourt.
"I think size is the one thing that jumps out at you," Groce said. "That's what we've noticed in workouts. With Meyers going pro, size is an area of need. And the other one — if we used it — would be the best available player regardless of position."
It already has been a robust week of recruiting for the new staff — in its first week on the job. The first uncommitted prospect to visit campus was Kendrick Nunn, a highly regarded junior at Chicago Simeon. Today the Illini will host Belleville East swingman Malcolm Hill, a gifted junior who committed to the Illini during Bruce Weber's tenure.
This late in the process, the pool of uncommitted high school seniors is limited. So the staff likely will go another route. Groce could mine from the junior college level, although recruiting jucos hasn't been his M.O. In four seasons at Ohio University, his staff took one junior college player.
Another option would be a college senior who is looking to transfer for his fifth season. In these parts it's known as the Sam Maniscalco Rule. A current example is Louisville redshirt junior Jared Swopshire, who is transferring for his fifth season. Having grown up in St. Louis, Swopshire has ties to the new UI staff. Same with former Centennial star Rayvonte Rice, who will transfer from Drake. Groce's staff at Ohio recruited Rice out of high school.
Those are just a few examples. More will surface. There figure to be several ways to use the two scholarships — if the new staff doesn't bank them for the 2013 class.
"We're going to see if there's anyone out there that we can sell on Illinois that can help our team," Groce said. "But the one thing I'm not going to do — and I mentioned this to you the other day — is give out a scholarship just to get another body. In this building process I would rather treat those scholarships like gold. The ones we give out, we have to feel really good about those guys.
"If we're going to get a big (man), we're not going to compromise and take a guy that might help us. We have to know he's going to help us."