Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.
The new Division I men’s basketball recruiting calendar started in earnest on Monday. Coaches have a month’s worth of recruiting period days (until Nov. 10) to get on the road and either start or keep building their 2020 classes in advance of the early signing period that begins Nov. 13.
A dead period from Nov. 11-14 and another from Dec. 24-26 — have to celebrate the holiday — are the only stretches that coaches can’t be on the road recruiting until March 31, 2020.
Where the Illinois coaches spent part of this week and a couple of the players they visited gave a pretty solid indication on a key need for the 2020 class. The Illini hit the east coast (no surprise there given the current roster) in search of a point guard. State of Illinois prospects like Adam Miller and D.J. Steward (currently on an official visit at Duke) are still priorities, but having a primary ball handler to potentially play next to them is, too.
That’s why Illinois was three-deep with coaches for Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) point guard Andre Curbelo earlier this week. Brad Underwood along with assistants Orlando Antigua and Stephen Gentry hit a packed open gym for the Crusaders, and while 2020 forward Zed Key was also a target of opportunity, Curbelo is a priority.
The 6-foot, 170-pound four-star point guard originally out of Puerto Rico simply produced for every team he played with in the last year.
Curbelo averaged 16.1 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals and shot 43 percent from beyond the arc as a junior to lead Long Island Lutheran to the New York Federation Class AA state title. He was just as productive for the New York Jayhawks on the adidas Gauntlet circuit, putting up 16.7 points, 5.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. Don’t forget Curbelo averaging 11.1 points, 5.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds for Puerto Rico in the FIBA U19 World Cup.
While Curbelo might be at the top of Illinois’ wish list when it comes to a Class of 2020 point guard, Underwood’s recruiting strategy (i.e. lots of offers) comes with ready made other options. One of those is 6-foot, 175-pound point guard Khalen “KK” Robinson, who the Illini also visited this week.
The Arkansas native transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., ahead of his senior season. Robinson, a four-star recruit is ranked as high as No. 70 nationally by 247Sports, with Curbelo just three spots higher on that particular list.
The Illini offered Robinson in June during his breakout season playing for Pro Skills on the EYBL circuit. He averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Texas-based team and elevated his game in every facet (save for three-point shooting) during Peach Jam in July.