Klee: What's next for Illini recruiting

Klee: What's next for Illini recruiting

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."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Dann001 wrote on April 07, 2012 at 3:04 am


     I'm not sure why you would advocate making an offer to 1 of 2 players that cannot contribute for another year? Perhaps I misconstrued your logic? I'ts happened once.....maybe? But seriously, I think what Coach Groce had to say is a very possitive direction. I'm starting to really like this guy!

ptevonian wrote on April 07, 2012 at 9:04 pm

If you read Klee's articles carefully, and listen to his chats, you will see that be pretty much never advocates ANY course of action.  He describes the Illini consistently as "your" team, as opposed to "our" team.  He has never recommended or "called for" any changes.  Unlike Tate, or Morrissey, or other columnists who offer editorials and opinions, Paul's job is to report the facts and point out the options and possibilities -- maybe even comment on likelihoods.  Be we very seldom, if ever, hear Paul's opinion as to what makes the most sense or what the Illini should or shouldn't do.

In this article, he's not advocating for making any offers to players that can't contribute for a year -- just stating that that option exists.  And to be clear, some transfers -- like Maniscalco -- could play immediately, while others, like Rayvonte, would presumably need to sit a year.

butkus50 wrote on April 07, 2012 at 4:04 am

What has happened to Head? Has he found another school or would he come back to Illiniois? If he came back, would he have to sit out? Seems like style of new coach fits Head's game.

houstonillini84 wrote on April 07, 2012 at 11:04 am

Crandall did not leave UI because of style of game issues. He left because he had to, he didnt 'take care of business' off of the court. In the same sense as Richmond could not have come back even if he wanted to. They just put the most favorable spin they could so he could get a fresh start elsewhere. No question Crandall wanted to play more, but that was incidental, the immediate reason he left because he had no other choice (although he might have chosen to leave anyway when it was clear that Bertrand was taking his minutes). Remember that Crandall had been around the UI program for years, since Luther was here, and everyone liked him and wanted the best for him. Bruce stood up for his players off the court and tried to do right by them. Crandall had a second chance after his 4 game suspension early last season but it didnt work out and that was that.

Dan Bloeme wrote on April 07, 2012 at 12:04 pm

There may have been some academic issues with Crandall, but I have seen no evidence or proof of that just hearsay. What I have seen is Crandall's tweets on twitter last December where Crandall most definitely said that Weber's style of play did not suit his game. While true Crandall didn't have a reliable outside shot ( though very few attempts as well), he was more comfortable free-wheeling in the open court, driving and passing. I thought after Richmond he was the 2nd best passer in the last 3 recruiting classes. Definitely he'd have to work on outside stroke to become as deadly as his brother was.

I like what Groce has said so far and glad he won't just add bodies unless he knows for sure they will contribute a lot. His emphasis on filling out the two available scholarships is a good big man and all around player. He must feel Illini have enough PG's for 2012-13.


trueillinifan wrote on April 07, 2012 at 12:04 pm
Profile Picture

I understand the logic of not bringing someone in who is going to ride the pine but...... without

another big we are going to run into trouble next year with fouls or possible injury. I think Groce

should be trying to win next year and as he said he noticed the lack of size in practice.

JUCO's might not be his flavor but bringing in that experience and size cannot do anything but help.

Groce should have a list of bigs available and I would like to see that list just like the coaching

candidates. Just so we know he is at least trying to fill the hole.


How can Deon Thomas not be on the list for the 3rd asst coach position? That kind of hire

would make Illini nation very happy. Just saying. Deon worked his butt off here as a player

did not get in any trouble that I can remember, was not a cry baby, knew how to block out, and

is a coach in Illinios right now. Talk to the man. He would be a huge influence on Parker and