John Groce Talks Recruiting

Stephen Dunn

Groce appeared on The Tay and J Show Wednesday and Illinois Loyalty was kind enough to transcribe the interview.

While we've had our fair share of football commits around here in recent weeks, things are a bit quiet on the basketball front. Part of that is because basketball recruiting is actually in a quiet period right now. Because of that it's been mostly visits and message board rumors that defy common sense.

The good news is that since John Groce isn't able to go out and recruit this week he had time to update everybody on where things sit on the recruiting trail while visiting the Tay and J Show Wednesday.

And while he was on the show Groce was asked how all the transfers this year affect Illinois recruiting in 2014 and 2015.

"We had a plan," said Groce. "We were very fortunate and worked very hard -- I've got a great staff -- we were able to put the plan into place and execute it. So we got exactly what we needed and now we're in a situation were we have one or two [scholarships] that we'll give in 2014."

That's right, as long as Ahmad Starks receives his waiver from the NCAA and can play this season, the Illini will have two more scholarships to play with in 2014. WILL THEY GO TO OKAFOR AND ALEXANDER?

Seriously, though, from listening to Groce he sure makes it sound like we should expect the big recruiting splash in the 2015 class rather than the 2014 class. At least, that's the way I interpret it.

"We've got a large class in 2015 (Edit. note: The Illini have five available scholarships in 2015)," he said. "That's enabled us to put more focus on that 2015 class. Which is, to be honest with you, really the first class that we've had a chance to kinda start from Jump Street with everybody else and not be behind a year on. Or starting out at home plate getting ready to bat while other people are on 2nd or 3rd base. That part's been good, it's given us a chance to really get knee-deep with that 2015 class and beyond."

Now, though Groce says the Illini got a late start in the 2014 class, he also said they've "caught up."

"Well we've caught up. We have, with some of those guys. Obviously we've worked very very hard. I think those kids recognize that we've got a really special opportunity here. Right now, there is a lot of momentum, there is a lot of excitement happening around our program. Our players deserve a lot of that credit."

Somewhere somebody is convincing themselves that "we've caught up" is secret code for "WE'RE GETTING OKAFOR AND ALEXANDER" and I love that person, even though that person is insane.

Anyway, like I said, the way I interpret everything Groce said is that while things are going just fine in 2014 recruiting, it will most likely be the 2015 class where the Illini make the big splash. Which is fine, really, because after the Illini made the tournament and advanced to the second round last season it was easy to forget how low expectations really were before the year started.

This is a program that was on a distinct, downward trend in recent seasons, and a team that did not have much class balance thanks to some recruiting gaffes in recent years. It's not a situation that Groce was going to be able to walk into, wave a magic wand and fix everything right away.

Well, not until Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander both commit, anyway.

Hat tip to Illinois Loyalty for transcribing the interview

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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