The Latest On Cliff Alexander

USA TODAY Sports

The recruit everybody wants, especially us.

It's going to be a while before Cliff Alexander commits, which means that Illinois fans will be crossing their fingers and hoping to hear the news about Alexander committing to the Illini for many months to come. It was just last week that Alexander released his top ten, which included Illinois along with your prerequisite college basketball powerhouses.

Alexander also made a couple of visits last week. One to Illinois, but only a day after he visited Kansas, which seems to have jumped in on Alexander quickly in recent weeks. And the Jayhawks, with Bill Self and Jerrance Howard -- two names very familiar to Illini fans -- are going to be tough to beat. As will Michigan State, Kentucky, Arizona and the rest.

I love Coach Groce; he's looking out for my best interests and wants me to develop and wants me to get to where I need to go. Coach Groce came in and changed it around. -Cliff Alexander

Alexander hasn't said much to the media lately, though he did talk to ny2lasports.com following his most recent visits to give a bit of an update on where he stands. Alexander reiterated that he's not rushing his decision and that things are still wide open, but he also said he'd like to return to Kansas on an official visit for their Midnight Madness. He also said that Arizona is another place he'd like to visit before making a decision.

As for Illinois, Alexander once again praised John Groce.

"I love Coach Groce; he's looking out for my best interests and wants me to develop and wants me to get to where I need to go," said Alexander. "Coach Groce came in and changed it around."

The most promising part of that quote, to me, is when he says Groce "changed it around." The way I read that is that Cliff may not have been seriously considering Illinois until meeting Groce, and after he did, the Illini definitely became a real option to him.

Now that doesn't mean he's going to come to Illinois. As I said in an #AskTCR mailbag, I don't think the Illini will land Alexander. I want them to because I think that Alexander is not simply a program changer on the court, but off of it as well. If Alexander came to Illinois and thrived here it would only make things that much easier for Groce in the future when it comes to recruiting not only the top talent in Chicago -- let's not forget that Kendrick Nunn was a top Chicago player behind Jabari Parker in the 2013 class, so we know Groce can get them -- but the top players in the country.

It's just that at this point I don't think the Illini are in a position to win these kind of recruiting battles with the college basketball blue bloods.

Which isn't to say I don't think John Groce can get this program to that level, as I'm certainly more optimistic about his chances to do so when compared to Bruce Weber, but the Illini aren't there yet.

Hopefully they will be one day, and Cliff Alexander would certainly speed that process up.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Tom Fornelli on Twitter at @TomFornelli.

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