This is a very big week in Illinois sports. Not only is it Homecoming week with Saturday's game against Michigan State, but the Illini will play an exhibition basketball game against McKendree on Thursday (that's right, actual Illinois basketball is only two days away). And we'll also be having an important visitor this weekend.
That important visitor being Cliff Alexander, who is making his official visit this weekend. The Illini will make their final push to land the 5-star power forward, who will make his decision on ESPNU on November 16.
But just because John Groce is busy trying to close on Cliff, that doesn't mean the man isn't always working. Alexander isn't the only 5-star power forward Groce has his sights on.
#Illini Coach John Groce took a plane ride to Lancaster, Texas today to visit with star recruit Elijah Thomas - a 6'9 230 pound center.— Taylor Rooks Sports (@ImTaylorRooks) October 21, 2013
"He's not like the head coach that just lets assistants do the recruiting. He does it his self. That means a lot." - Thomas on Groce #Illini— Taylor Rooks Sports (@ImTaylorRooks) October 21, 2013
"The relationship with Illinois has always been there, they were the second school to offer me. That's important." - Elijah Thomas #Illini— Taylor Rooks Sports (@ImTaylorRooks) October 21, 2013
If you aren't familiar with Thomas, he's a 5-star power forward that's considered one of the top 10 players in the 2015 class. The 6'9, 240-pounder out of Rockwell, Texas has offers from basically everybody. Arizona, Baylor, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, and those are just some of the offers. More are likely to come.
So, if we're being real here, odds are the Illini have an uphill battle to land Thomas, and it's good to see he has nice things to say about Groce. But it's not going to be easy to pry a player out of Texas when the old blue bloods are all recruiting him as well.
Still, that's what I love about John Groce. He doesn't care if it's easy or if the odds are against him. If he likes a guy he's going to battle for him without giving a thought to what he's up against. And as he's already shown with players like Leron Black and Quentin Snider, he's not just willing to battle, but he can win too.
It's an attitude that we already know makes its way into the team he's coaching on the court.