Decent college freshman
Join Date: Jun 2006
Re: Illinois Fan Thread.
Okay, here goes....
With Nnana Egwu and Tracy Abrams in the fold, Illinois' two biggest needs for the 2011 class have been addressed, and addressed with a pair of Top 75 recruits to bood: Abrams gives Illinois the much-needed point guard to replace Demetri McCamey in 2011, and Nnana Egwu gives them a big man to replace Tisdale and Davis (along with Meyers Leonard).
Illinois can now turn their attention to Bradley Beal at the moment, who may signify the end of his recruitment on Friday by deciding which Midnight Madness he'll attend: Illinois, Florida or Kansas. He would almost certainly be the jewel of the class but with Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson being juniors that year and Crandall Head being a sophomore, he'd be a luxury whereas adding the point guard (Abrams) and big man (Egwu) were necessities in this class.
The addition of Egwu is also a big-time moment for Illinois in that, for all of Illinois' recruiting success the last two years, this is really the first time they won a really hotly contested battle that went down to the wire (well, at least insofar as Egwuw as ready to end his recruitment) with another top-flight program as Purdue almost stole him away.
So assuming Jereme Richmond is still in an Illinois uniform for the '11-'12 season- and the guess here is that he's a two-year player- here's how the roster and lineup might look:
Juniors- Richardson, Paul, Bertrand, Griffey, Simpson
Sophomores- Richmond, Head, Leonard
Freshmen- Abrams, Egwu, ???, ???
So unless Richmond is a one-and-done, there doesn't appear to be a great deal of minutes available for any new perimeter players that season. Of course, Bradley Beal isn't going to sit anywhere. Even if he isn't a starter he'd play a lot of minutes. And of course, Richmond being 6'7" could mean he could play a lot at the 4 to open up more perimeter minutes unless Illinois lands Shaw or Miller somehow. And that may be the case even if the Illini land Randle, because he's too good to sit as a freshman also.
The selling point to either Miller or Shaw has to be that the power forward position is wide open for as many minutes as possible to be taken. Simpson and Griffey are both solid prospects but both may be better-suited as role players; Griffey could be valuable as a face-up backup big like Damir Krupalijia, and Simpson may be best-suited as a physical enforcer off the bench, like- and this dates me- Ervin Small. (Though I think he's more skilled than that.)
That being said....
POTENTIAL RECRUITS THAT WE KNOW OF (with their Rivals ranking):
Guards- Bradley Beal (No. 7), Chasson Randle (No. 45), Devin Langford (N/A)
Wings- Brenden Dawson (No. 16), Wayne Blackshear (No. 18), Sam Thompson (No. 34), Andre Henley (No. 126), Jacob Williams (No. 146)
Big forwards- Quincy Miller (No. 3), Mike Shaw (No. 44), James Siakam (No. 101)
Post players- Kevin Johnson (No. 117)
REASONED ANALYSIS AND HALF-ASSED GUESSES:
Let's start with the lone true big on the list, Kevin Johnson. He was reportedly offered a scholarship by Illinois over the summer and more interior depth- particularly another banger like Johnson is- can't hurt, it's hard to imagine Illinois taking two true bigs in this class. They most likely want another guard or wing, and a forward. So unless it's a last-resort situation or the need for frontcourt depth becomes more glaring.....I wouldn't say totally forget about Johnson but keep him in the way back of your mind. Egwu is more of a skilled, face-up big with a developing post game, so teaming him with a banger in the same class wouldn't be a terrible idea.
Best guess on post prospects: Egwu will probably be the only one.
There are some intriguing wings Illinois is recruiting, and except for Henley they're all pretty similar players: 6'5", 6'6", rangy, long, very athletic. Your prototypical wing players in today's game. I think any of them would fit well at the 3 alongside Illinois' collection of skilled, smaller guards. Fortunately for Illinois, they already have such a prospect in the fold with Crandall Head, but you can never have enough.
Blackshear you can probably forget about. The saying goes where there's smoke, there's fire and there's been a lot of smoke that he and Shaw are a package deal and he's not interested in Illinois. (I don't think that necessarily eliminates the possibility of Shaw for us, but more on that briefly.) He's said in the past that he's worried about all of the perimeter talent already at/committed to Illinois, an odd sentiment for a 5-star candidate.
Thompson isn't likely to be an Illini, either. Just not a lot of buzz about him and Illinois out there.
Dawson is intriguing. A superb athlete who could excel in a Shawn Marion-like role as a small forward playing either forward spot, it's hard to imagine getting a kid out of Indiana that both the Hoosiers and Boilers really want. But he and his coach seem to like us and we were in on him before he blew up nationally. Worth keeping an eye on.
Jacob Williams is also intriguing; a highly athletic kid who may not be far out of the class of Blackshear or Thompson, but he's a bit of an unknown after missing his sophomore year. If he stays out of trouble and is as good as some say, he's worth keeping an eye on.
Henley, like I said, is a little bit out of the long, thin athletic mold that these guys are in. He's more of a throwback, a strong, thick kid who's wired to score. He's at Brehm Prep in Carbondale, whose coach Aaron Lee has a very good relationship with Illinois.
Best guess on wings: Don't count out Jerrance Howard in working on Blackshear and Shaw to join their buddy Abrams in Champaign, but it's highly unlikely. Too much smoke out there that they're headed to Louisville.
I think Dawson's recruitment has a ways to go before it gets going but I think we'll very much be a part of it. But like I said, hard to see him getting away from Purdue or Indiana.
Henley and Williams are worth keeping an eye on if Illinois' Plans A and B don't work out. They'd potentially be good fallbacks.
Mike Shaw is a name that's been known to Illinois fans for over two years now. He may not quite be the mega-prospect everyone thought he was as a freshman, but then again he's only halfway through his high school career. So he has plenty of time but hasn't put it all together yet. He'd be best-served to recognize that he isn't a small forward yet, he's a face-up power forward. Like I said with Blackshear, it's hard to see him ending up here at this point but I like our chances better with Shaw. It's not a guarantee that they're a package deal and Abrams could lure him here after all.
Quincy Miller, a top-three player nationally, would be the most highly-touted prospect Illinois has ever landed, slightly ahead of Derek Harper. And some out there feel that we're very much a player in his recruitment. So we'll see.
Siakam is a player that I think will solidly be inside everyone's Top 100 list by the time his high school career is over. He's a bit undersized for power forward at 6'6", but he's highly athletic, physical and plays bigger than his height. Also, the power forwards on Illinois' last two Final Four teams were 6'6" so that doesn't exactly worry me. I think his toughness and athleticism is very appealing to the Illinois staff; they may secretly like him more than Shaw and there may be good reason to. To date, he's been a more productive player. He also plays for Brehm Prep, so there's a great connection.
Best guess on forwards: I think we get Siakam. Don't completely give up on Shaw, and pay attention to whatever chance we have at Miller. But I think the staff would happily take Siakam and have him be another Roger Powell.
As I said earlier, we could know on Friday where Brad Beal goes. He's talked about ending his recruitment before his season starts so whichever Midnight Madness he shows up at, consider it a strong sign as to where he'll play a year or two of college basketball. At the moment Illinois has to be throwing the kitchen sink at him.
If he doesn't work out, I don't think anyone would be disappointed for a second in landing Randle. It would give Illinois a highly talented, versatile backcourt for 3-4 years with he and Abrams, two guys who can run the offense or score in bunches.
Devin Langford is a guy who was totally unknown as of a few months ago but is starting to emerge as a national recruit. One would think that a kid from Alabama would have no interest in Illinois, but apparently he was the one who sought out interest from the Illini. Could be a "grass is greener" thing as beat writer Paul Klee pointed out recently. Kids from here see the ACC or Big East as the ultimate destination sometimes; maybe kids from down South don't see the SEC as a basketball conference and see the Big Ten as a more attractive destination at times. Who knows? He seems like a similar prospect to Joseph Bertrand from what I've read about him: 6'5", very athletic and versatile, able to play all three perimeter spots.
Best guess on the guards: We're up against it with Beal. Hopefully this changes in five days but I think he ends up at Florida or Kansas. A lot of people think Purdue may edge us out for Randle, but some thought that about Egwu too. So I'm going to very tentatively guess that we get Randle, but keep an eye on Langford. The likes of Maryland, Georgia and even Kansas are starting to look at him.
So, that's it....my guess for this class right now is Tracy Abrams, Chasson Randle, James Siakam and Nnana Egwu. I'd be very pleased with that class if it works out that way.