After the Illini dedicated their recruiting resources and a roster spot to Quentin Snider (2014, G, ranked No. 31), they backed off Jalen Brunson (2015, G, ranked No. 28), and Brunson complied. He stepped away as well.
The Illini all but fell off Brunson's recruiting trail, per reports, because of the Snider commitment. Snider was pegged as the point guard of the future, and Brunson was pushed out of the picture. So, when Snider decommitted, we didn't exactly retake our place near the front of the recruiting race.
Brunson was cold on the Illini, as was his right. After all, who wants to be considered the back-up plan? We were running game and Brunson ain't one to be played.
You acting kinda shady, ain't callin' me baby, why the sudden change?
Remember the other day
I would call, you would say
"Baby, how's your day?"
But today, it ain't the same
You could sing that whole anthem and it'd all apply. Our chances were jumpin' jumpin' to the point I lost my breath, but we said the wrong name. Brunson's a soldier--a survivor--and he moved on. (sorry)
The recruiting race on Brunson came down to Michigan and Michigan St., with the Wolverines firmly in front. Illinois was not in the picture because we two-timed the Illinois native and eloped with the Louisville native, who robbed us clean and ruined our credit. We made our bed, we dug our own grave, etc.
Illinois' decision wasn't incomprehensible at the time. Groce had oversigned the 2014 class. Snider put Illinois one over the limit, and Cliff Alexander was trending towards Illinois. The 2015 landscape would have cleared up a bit with the graduations of Rayvonte Rice, Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and Ahmad Starks, so Brunson certainly would have had a place. But his position was filled in an already smoggy scholarship situation. It made sense at the time.
Wait. No it didn't. Point guards can play together just fine, as 2005 proved. Brunson should have remained a priority. Look at this highlight tape.
Tell me you saw that crossover. (scroll over for GIF)
Oh, my. One more time.
And now the good news. Reports have surfaced that Illinois is very much back in the Brunson sweepstakes:
Apparently, all is well again with Brunson and the Illinois coaching staff. Groce and the staff attended Brunson's game on Friday night in Lincolnshire to check out the four-star junior rated as the No. 2 point guard in the country in his class.
Champaign Room basketball guru Thomas Bruch had this to say about the possibility of adding Jalen Brunson.
He's the dynamite point guard we've needed and the most talented and highest ranked one since Dee/Deron. He would start immediately and would be a hell of a player.
Point one: He's the dynamite point guard we've needed.
Yes. One more time...
Point two: Highest ranked point guard since Dee/Deron.
Also true. Dee Brown ranked slightly higher than Brunson on most lists, but Brunson tops the once-criminally-underrated Deron Williams. Accounting for variance and a margin of error, Dee and Jalen are similarly listed. Right now, Jalen falls in as a top 30 recruit and a top 5 point guard.
Point three: He'll be one hell of a player.
The evidence is above and all around you. Everyone seems to be sold on Brunson as a point guard. Even more than his talent, though, is his significance in terms of in-state recruiting. Groce and co. have worked their way back into the Illinois state scene with commitments from D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan. Jalen Brunson would open the doors even wider.
Now, point four, which I'll have to add, isn't a point at all. It's a warning. Let me wrap this piece in yellow caution tape that reads, Enter This Obsession at Your Own Risk. You'll hear more negative outlooks than positive outlooks, and the naysayers have a point--Illinois is by no means a front runner. Even if they were, we've played this game before. It ends in heartbreak. Illinois usually loses.
But if you're the dangerous type, then don't hedge the bet. Go all-in and take the emotions at their full strength. Why not? Sorrow? Whatever. We need some excitement around here. Brunson's recruitment will likely go the distance, as most top recruitments do, so you'll have plenty of time to ride this roller coaster.
Happy recruiting trails. And, oh, one more time...