How many blue chips will Illinois win?

How many blue chips will Illinois win?

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The real recruiting fun begins later this month when Jalen Brunson makes an official visit to Illinois. It continues with Jimmy Whitt, followed by Elijah Thomas and Shake Milton. Jawun Evans is expected, too, at some point. The four-star point guard from Dallas trimmed his list of schools to four Wednesday, and Illinois is one of them. Staff writer Matt Daniels takes a glance at the five highly coveted recruits.

Jalen Brunson
Point guard, Stevenson

Illinois visit: Aug. 29-31
Others vying for his services: Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova
Outlook: Brunson declared his final eight schools earlier in the process, and he has plans for official visits to Villanova (Sept. 4-6) and Temple (Sept. 11-13) after his stop at Illinois. Illinois was one of the first schools in on arguably the state’s top player in the upcoming class, evaluating him early in his sophomore season — before he put up 56 points during a Class 4A state semifinal game against Jahlil Okafor and Chicago Whitney Young last March. Landing Brunson would give John Groce his biggest prize since arriving at Illinois.

Jawun Evans
Point guard, Dallas Kimball

Illinois visit: TBD
Others vying for his services: Oklahoma State, Southern Cal and Texas
Outlook: Has seen his stock rise rapidly with his play on the AAU circuit in the spring and summer. Illinois has developed a solid relationship with Evans throughout the process, aided by assistant coach Jamall Walker. He’s quick with the ball and in the open floor, but he needs to work a bit on his outside shot. If he is the only point guard prospect who picks Illinois, he would have the chance to seize the starting job at the onset of the 2015-16 season. He’s not quite on the same level as Brunson, but he’s certainly not seen as a fallback plan.

Jimmy Whitt
Point guard, Columbia (Mo.) Hickman
Illinois visit:
Sept. 13-15
Others vying for his services: Arkansas, Marquette, Missouri and SMU
Outlook: Getting the four-star recruit away from his hometown Tigers and to Champaign would prove quite a coup — but perhaps not one as big as it looks on paper. Walker has helped play a pivotal role in why Whitt is strongly considering Illinois. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Whitt is among the upper echelon of point guards in the class. His visit to Illinois is the second of five official visits he has planned, with Marquette (Sept. 5-7) up first before taking in SMU (Sept. 19-21), Arkansas (Oct. 10-12) and Missouri (Oct. 25-27).

Elijah Thomas
Center, Lancaster (Texas)
Illinois visit:
Sept. 19-21
Others vying for his services: LSU, Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M and UNLV
Outlook: Having a point guard is critical for Illinois but adding a premier big man is another major focal point. Thomas fits that description. The five-star recruit near the Dallas area has whittled his lengthy list of schools to six, at least at this point. He is set to take an official visit to Oklahoma State the week before he arrives at Illinois. A skilled big man, Thomas has a knack for rebounding and scoring around the basket along with stepping out for some midrange jumpers, reasons why so many teams from across the country are after him.

Shake Milton
Shooting guard, Owasso (Okla.)
Illinois visit:
Oct. 3-5
Others vying for his services: Indiana, Oklahoma and SMU
Outlook: If Milton were to pick Illinois, it’d be a rare add. Junior college transfer Rodney Alexander, a Michigan native, landed at Illinois from Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla. But Alexander only lasted the 2007-08 season before he left the program. Illinois has had one player from the Sooner State letter for it. That was Forrest Lindsay from Tulsa — during the 1925-26 season. Illinois is the last of four visits for Milton, who plans to check out Oklahoma on Aug. 22-24, SMU on Sept. 5-7 and Indiana on Sept. 26-28.

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Moonpie wrote on August 07, 2014 at 4:08 pm

And they might not land a single one of them, as they all pretend to put one cap on, only to don another.

bubbac wrote on August 07, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Good Luck Coach - Keep up the hard work and good things will happen. You have to have your line in the water around the big fish to catch one!!

(in spite of Johnnie Negative- ie..... Moonpie) 

Illini Mort wrote on August 08, 2014 at 7:08 am

Coach Groce has built tremendous momentum - this is very exciting.  Coach - Keep up the great work, Illini Nation is behind you 100%. FYI - To those of you that may not frequent this site (and perhaps are planning trips to Champaign soon!), I apologize for Cow Pie's sarcastic comments.  For clarity's sake, he doesn't speak for Illini Nation primarily because he isn't part of it.  As you can see, he's one of those annoying individuals that we all know and do everything to avoid.  His comments are always negative, never constructive and only intended to boost his low self esteem (which isn't working).  So when you come back to IlliniHQ to catch up on the tremendous job Coach Groce is doing, watch your step and avoid the Cow Pies. 

aaeismacgychel wrote on August 08, 2014 at 5:08 pm

For what it's worth, I originally thought this article was going to be about football recruiting and I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Being that it's basketball recruiting, this makes a lot more sense, and hopefully a couple of these high prospects will indeed choose the orange and blue next year. I think we have a pretty solid team next year as it is, and adding a high level point guard and big man would really push the Illini back into that upper eschelon in college basketball.

HoosierIllinois wrote on August 13, 2014 at 10:08 am

I think we have a good chance of getting one of the point guards.  Other than Brunson, our progam is better than any of the other teams in competition.