Latest women's recruit not concerned by allegations

Latest women's recruit not concerned by allegations

CHAMPAIGN — In any other circumstances, Brandi Beasley’s weekend commitment to Illinois would be just the typical bigger blip on the non-stop recruiting radar.

After all, the point guard from Memphis can’t sign a National Letter of Intent for more than four months. And won’t set foot on the UI campus for her first official day for almost a year.

Beasley’s commitment to coach Matt Bollant on Saturday, though, is a little different

She’s the first 2016 recruit to commit since allegations were levied against Bollant and former associate head coach Mike Divilbiss last month by the families of now seven former players.

Beasley, a three-star recruit and No. 14 point guard in the 2016 class by ESPN, said she didn’t have any concerns about the issues currently hanging over the Illini program.

“I felt comfortable with the coaching staff,” Beasley said Monday. “I met the team. The girls are great, and they’re fun to be around.”

Beasley visited Illinois on Saturday with her longtime trainer and now-AAU coach, Jevonte’ Holmes. He said the allegations against the Illinois program were something that was on his mind before the visit.

“We knew about it, the things going on, but each experience is different for each player,” Holmes said.

“(Beasley) was confident with it. For me, that was the biggest thing. It was her decision, and she was happy with her decision. Like I tell every kid, I can’t walk on this campus and deal with the coaches for them.”

New Illinois associate head coach LaKale Malone was the lead recruiter for the 5-foot-7 point guard out of Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tenn. Beasley said the fact Malone is also a Tennessee native — she was a 1,000-point scorer and all-state standout at Murfreesboro’s Riverdale High School before playing four seasons at Indiana — helped her form a relationship with her eventual coach.

“She really did her job of making us comfortable,” Holmes said about Malone. “Brandi really gravitated to her. Coach Bollant was very good. He’s a man of few words, but when he made a statement it really mattered to Brandi. Coach (Tianna) Kirkland was very friendly. It’s an even balance on the coaching staff.”

The Illini coaches showed Beasley footage of the team’s 77-71 win against then-No. 9 Kentucky last November and had her focus on what Ivory Crawford did against the Wildcats. Crawford attacked the basket repeatedly and scored 22 points on 70 percent shooting during the Illini’s upset win in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The offense that they run is a spread offense,” Beasley said. “They do a lot of pick-and-rolls. They said, with my driving ability and ability to get to the rim, I would fit in with their system.”

That was a major selling point for Beasley in what turned out to be a quick recruitment from Illinois. She first spoke with the Illini coaches only a few days before her visit on Saturday.

“I didn’t have any intentions of committing. It just felt right,” said Beasley, who said Illinois’ civil engineering program also caught her attention. “I was considering Vanderbilt, but once I looked into Vanderbilt, their style of basketball didn’t really fit my game. I didn’t want to get there and have to change my whole style.”

Holmes said Beasley could contribute right away at Illinois. The Illini’s style fits right into her biggest strengths.

“I love their up-and-down style,” he said. “Brandi’s a great open-space player. She’s a great passer, she’s a good defender and she’s very quick with the ball.”