Basketball writer Paul Klee chimes in with his thought on Demetrius Jackson’s decision today:
Despite their proximity, the Illinois and Notre Dame basketball programs have met once in almost four decades. It took a gifted high school senior to pair them up again. That’s what today’s Demetrius Jackson announcement is: an old-fashioned, head-to-head battle. It has been complete with contrasting recruiting pitches (Notre Dame: Be the hometown hero; Illinois: Be the center of our revival) and negative recruiting. (Kansas also is a finalist, and those close to the KU program believe Illinois is a significant player.) His decision, which comes between 4-5 p.m. on ESPNU, has no other strings, hangers-on or outside agendas attached. It’s a decision entirely from Jackson, a 6-foot-1 lead guard with NBA athleticism and the future of two programs hanging on his word. As of Wednesday night, neither coaching staff knew his decision. Both were still actively recruiting Jackson on Wednesday night. Both staffs had three coaches to see (and be seen by) Jackson in an open gym at Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian on Tuesday. There were myriad guesses, and that’s all they were. No one knew for certain — not the coaches, not connected media, no one. For all of the high-profile recruitments that filter through this region, none have been more tight-lipped than Jackson’s. We usually don’t make as big of a deal from a single recruitment. Most prospects are overhyped; Jackson is not. He’s a McDonald’s All-America talent who will televise his announcement to help build his resume and exposure for those kinds of accolades. There sometimes is a Plan B with comparable ability; Illinois has options, but none as gifted as Jackson. This one is different for Illinois. The commitment from an elite point guard like Jackson would speed up the process for John Groce as he attempts to build Illinois into a Big Ten contender again. That Groce’s staff has managed to put the Illini in this position — in the final three for the best prospect in the state of Indiana’s 2013 class — is somewhat of a recruiting miracle. And it bodes well for the Illini’s future. If Groce doesn’t close on Jackson, he will close in the future, when he has more time to work with. Illinois has done all it could — and more — to score a commitment from Jackson. As for the next time Illinois and Notre Dame will face off? It might be when the ACC-bound Irish are paired against the Illini in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in a few years. After all of this, you just know that will happen — with Jackson in one of their starting lineups.