As we, Illini fans, try and forget about the ugly loss to Indiana on Sunday and disassociate ourselves from the digital bile that was spewed from some immature members of the student body yesterday, let's all go to our 2015 basketball recruiting happy place.
My 2015 recruiting class happy place has visions of Charles Matthews driving the lane and kicking to an open Aaron Jordan waiting behind the three point arc to drain another trey. And if he should somehow, god willing, miss an open look from three, Carlton Bragg or D.J. Williams will be there for a monstrous put back slam (that actually goes in). The backboard shatters. Bill Self and Kansas forfeit from pure intimidation. Illinois national championship banners are being raised. Woah. Wake up. I'm getting ahead of myself.
Half of that dream looks like it will be fulfilled with D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan already pledging their loyalty to the Orange and Blue. Charles Matthews and Carlton Bragg are certainly possibilities, but let's look at this class and the potential it oozes.
When John Groce was hired in the spring of 2012, most college basketball and recruiting experts expected 2015 to be his breakthrough class. Groce was oh so close to striking gold with the '14 class, but we all know how that turned out. It's okay, though. 2015 is supposed to be the year of the Illini recruit.
With two four star prospects already in the fold, John Groce has begun fulfilling the prophecy of a breakout, put Illinois basketball back on the map for good 2015 recruiting class.
There are four scholarships to fill in this class. Ideally, the staff lands a scoring lead guard, a high percentage shooting guard, an athletic combo forward, and a beastly power forward or center. Have I mentioned yet that two of the four are already on board? I haven't? Oh, well, Aaron Jordan is that shooting guard and D.J. Williams is that combo forward.
Let's take a look at some highly rated, potential recruits that JFG is looking to close the class with.
*Note this is more or less a wish list of sorts. Yes, other players are being recruited at these positions. Please feel free to add any players to the comments that you're hoping for but aren't listed below.
Scoring point guards
Charles Matthews: I'll start with young Mr. Matthews because I've been drooling over the possibility of him committing to the Illini for quite some time. He's more of a 6-foot-5 combo guard, but who cares. He's the highest rated player from Illinois in the 2015 class. He's a surefire burger boy. He's also best friends with current Illinois commit D.J. Williams. Most likely, Illinois' main competition will be from Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke. No surprise there.
Eric Davis: This standout from Saginaw, Michigan is a four star point guard on the cusp of becoming a five star. His skill set is perfect for the offense the John Groce wants to run meaning he can handle the ball and score at will. Most believe he is Michigan State bound, but the Illini are on his list.
Jalen Brunson: Most fans of Illinois high school basketball hoops witnessed Jalen Brunson's coming out party during last year's IHSA 4A run to the state title game. He's a consensus four star recruit, and he can fill a stat sheet. Rumors are that the relationship between Brunson and the Illini cooled after Quentin Snider committed, but Snider also decommitted so maybe interest between both parties will heat up again. Right now, Michigan is considered to be the favorite for Jalen's services.
Jalen Coleman: Jalen Coleman is a four star point guard from La Porte, Indiana. He's another lead guard that perfectly fits the mold of John Groce's offensive style. The Illini have not faired well recruiting the state of Indiana (IDKWTI comes to mind), but La Porte is close enough to the Illinois border that loyalty to the Hoosiers could be in question. We know Groce has won battles in Indiana during his days as an Ohio State assistant, so there's a chance. Expect this to be an epic recruiting battle between a number of Big Ten schools.
Diamond Stone: The five star, man child center from Milwaukee is a top 10 rated player across the board by all the recruiting services. He's huge, AND strong, AND rebounds with two hands, AND can score on the block. I could go on, but you get the picture. The Illini offered very early which might give them a chance once Diamond is ready to make a decision. Winning his commitment from Marquette and Wisconsin will be difficult; though.
Carlton Bragg: Another consensus top 10 player from the class is a power forward that is strong, AND rebounds with two hands, AND can score on the block, AND dunks anything within seven feet from the basket. Bragg has had nothing but great things to say about the Illini which bodes well for an attempt to steal him from the Buckeye State. Thad Matta will be in it until the end for Bragg as well as our favorite squid, John Calamari. I mean Calipari. This video shows he can do more than dunk. He can also shimmy a bit.
Elijah Thomas: The five star power forward from Lancaster, Texas is a bit unknown in Illinois recruiting circles and talked about little. Let me assure you that Elijah's game is far from little, and his interest in Illinois is legitimate. I'm sure you can guess this, but he is big, AND strong, AND rebounds with two hands, AND can score on the block. That's quite the common theme for the bangers on this list. SMU is rumored to be leading for Mr. Thomas, but don't count out Illinois in this race.
Josh Sharma: The seven-footer's recruitment and ranking has taken off as of late. He's a bit raw, but you can see glimpses of the length and athleticism Illinois fans once saw in Meyers Leonard when watching Sharma's game. Most guys that have grown beyond the six-foot range aren't doing between the legs dunks during warm ups. He'll need to add some weight and muscle, but his frame and skillset is there with a ton of upside. Raise your hand if you thought Wisconsin would be involved in his recruitment...you'd be right. Vanderbilt is also in the mix. This video is a bit old(I swear I just watched an updated video on him), but you can see the potential there.
Both lists above are more of a wish list than anything else. Groce could absolutely miss out on all of them, and that wouldn't be a complete surprise. I do believe, however, that the Illini finally land a big fish in this class. Landing one big fish could easily lead to another big fish.
And before this overview turns into a terrible imitation of a Dr. Seuss book, let's all hope that some form of our collective 2015 basketball recruiting happy place becomes some form of a 2015 basketball recruiting reality when all is said and done.
G - O, Illini GO!