’14-’15 Illinois basketball Season Preview part 1: RECRUITING


Illinois basketball

It’s time for the 2014-15 Illinois basketball season preview. Last year I did this piece in late March/early April. This year I’m doing it before the NCAA Tournament even ends. Once that brutal 1-9 stretch occurred in midseason, I shifted to next year’s Illini team. Then they won a few games down the stretch and made the 2013-14 season rather respectable.

So we put off looking ahead for awhile, but now that the Not Invited Tournament is over we can take our minds off the consolation bracket of consolation brackets and instead focus on recruiting, everybody’s favorite part.


Hey, unless the page view numbers are lying to me, recruiting seems to be “the next big thing.” Part two of our Illinois basketball season preview will focus on the frontcourt, part three will focus on the backcourt. We’ll go over potential starting fives and depth charts then.

Two 2014 signees. Next year’s freshman: Leron Black and Michael Finke.

The former figures to get much more playing time than the latter. The Illini will once again be thin up front next year, so Black, along with Darius Paul, little brother of Illinois basketball program favorite Brandon Paul, figure to play substantial if not starter minutes.

The next recruiting targets: John Groce and his staff are looking at Carlton Bragg (Ohio), Jayson Tatum (Missouri), Elijah Thomas (Texas), Nojel Eastern (Illinois). More on all this from Taylor Rooks, of Fox Sports Next.

And of course Jalen Brunson. Here’s the latest update on that situation.


Two verbal commits for 2015: D.J. Williams of Simeon and Aaron Jordan:

Taylor Rooks: D.J. Williams will probably split time between the 3 and 4. He’s from Simeon, and that in itself is an accolade. laying with a talented program, against many other talented programs is probably the best preparation for college. He’s been playing Varsity since he was a freshman, so he can bring leadership – something the Illini desperately need. He is aggressive, quick, and is a great ball handler.

He also committed early, so that’s a good sign. He is an Illinois kid that WANTS to be at Illinois….and that’s something we haven’t seen lately.
Aaron Jordan is probably the best shooter. He’s good, and that’s something they need. Not just a good shooter, but a consistent shooter. That’s him. I have interviewed him multiple times, and he is one of the most well spoken athletes I’ve ever spoken to. He fits flawlessly into Coach Groce’s system; he spreads the ball, sets ball screens, and can shoot the three. His weakness is really driving to the basket and really getting to the rim, but last time we spoke he was focusing on improving that.


Finally, let’s stop worrying about having to recruit EVERYBODY in Chicago. (more on this idea here)

If other programs in other states come to the second city to “poach” our talent, then you just go to other states to “poach” their talent. Don’t worry about recruiting locally. Recruit nationally.

“In order to be a national program, you have to recruit nationally,” said Chuck Okafor, assistant coach at Whitney Young, and father of the nation’s #1 recruit, Jahlil Okafor on Tuesday.

“I think Groce is doing that, he’s got Leron Black, a great player, a great kid I’ve been watching since eighth grade. And he’s doing it, he’s going over the border, I just think when he came here he wanted to get familiar with the Chicago area first. I’ve been an Illini fan since Kenny Battle, Nick Anderson, they’re a great school.”


Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent commentator on national talk radio. The former NBC Chicago and Washington Times contributor has also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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