You're hurting, Illini fan. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. We all know because we're all hurting.
On Friday Cliff Alexander broke your heart, giving you a second of hope before ripping it away from you and choosing another. It was an ugly end to what had been a promising relationship, and you've since spent the entire weekend laying in bed, not showering and eating pint after pint of ice cream.
Well snap out of it, Illini fan. The feeling sorry for yourself is over. It's time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and most importantly, make sure you didn't learn a single damn lesson about anything that happened last week.
Cliff Alexander is gone, and he ain't coming back. It's time for you to go back out in the world and fall in love again. You need a rebound from the rebounder. And since we're such good friends, we're here to help you find your new obsession.
The 2015 recruiting class officially started the second after Cliff put that Kansas hat on, and John Groce has his eyes set on the top talent in the next class. So let's take a look at the names that you'll be hearing a lot about over the next year.
D.J. Williams - 4-star SF
(247Composite ratings: Overall: 36, Position: 7, Illinois: 3)
Williams is already committed to the Illini and is our sole member of the 2015 class so far. Well, he's a pretty good start as the small forward from Simeon -- THE PIPELINE -- is ranked as the No. 36 prospect in the 2015 class, and the No. 3 player in the state of Illinois.
With guys like Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn around the four-star Williams wasn't the top option on Simeon's roster last season, but he'll play a much larger role this season and could climb up the rankings.
Charles Matthews - 5-star SG
(Overall: 11, Position: 1, Illinois: 1)
Matthews is considered the top player in the state, and it's not hard to figure out why when you see him play. At 6'6 he's got very good size for his position, can handle the ball, and is a good shooter. Really he's a perfect fit for what John Groce likes to do on offense.
Whether or not Illinois can get him, well, it won't be easy. He's already got offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and all the others. However, what is working in Illinois' favor is that Matthews is very good friends with D.J. Williams. There are even rumors that after playing at St. Rita this season that Matthews might transfer to Simeon for his senior season to experience a jump up in competition and play alongside Williams.
Carlton Bragg- 5-star PF
(Overall: 9, Position: 3, Ohio: 1)
We've written about Carlton Bragg here before, and while John Groce was already interested in the power forward from Cleveland, I have a feeling losing out on Cliff Alexander will make Groce go after Bragg even harder. Bragg is more polished on the offensive end than Cliff Alexander was at this point last year, and he's also an athletic freak with a very high motor.
More importantly, he's also a strong rebounder and defender. Something any coach would love. Which is why he already has offers from Louisville and Ohio State, as well as interest from Duke and Kentucky. The odds Bragg ends up in Champaign probably aren't good, but given Groce's history in the state of Ohio and relationship with Bragg, they might just be better than you think.
Elijah Thomas - 5-star PF
(Overall: 10, Position: 4, Texas: 1)
Groce flew down to Texas to visit Thomas a few weeks ago, and as he has already shown with Leron Black and Quentin Snider -- sorry -- Groce isn't limiting himself to talent in the state of Illinois. He wants the best players from all over the country, and Elijah Thomas qualifies as one of those.
At 6'9 and 240 pounds the big man has plenty of suitors like Oklahoma State, Baylor, Indiana, Arizona, Kentucky and Louisville just to name a few. The Illini are going to need a big man in 2015, so expect Groce to keep going hard after Thomas.
Diamond Stone - 5-star C
(Overall: 6, Position: 2, Wisconsin: 1)
Aside from having an awesome name, Diamond Stone has an impressive frame -- 6'10, 246 pounds -- and game as well. Personally I think Groce will have a hard time prying this big man out of Wisconsin, as Marquette and Wisconsin are considered the favorites now, but that will probably just make Groce work that much harder.
Interesting fact about Diamond Stone? He used to be a soccer goalie. So you know he has good feet.
Jalen Brunson - 4-star PG
(Overall: 28, Position: 6, Illinois: 2)
With Quentin Snider decommitting to go to Louisville the point guard position suddenly became a priority in the 2015 class, so I guess it's a good thing we have a very good one right here in Illinois.
Now, the bad news is that I think the Illini backed off on Brunson a bit after getting Snider, so they may have to pick up ground on him now. If it's any consolation the first four predictions on his Crystal Ball page all say Illinois and they were all made in the last week.
Montague Gill-Caesar - 5-star SG
(Overall: 22, Position: 4, West Virginia: 1)
Another great name, Gill-Caesar is originally from Canada but he's currently enrolled at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Unlike the rest of the 2015 class, which consists mostly of 16 year olds, Gill-Caesar is actually just a few months shy of turning 18. So he'll be very physically mature for a freshman and could possibly compete for playing time the moment he sets foot on campus.
Whether that campus is Illinois or not, I don't know. There will be plenty of competition for him, but to be honest I'm just not sure how interested Illinois is in him at this point. He has an offer, but I haven't heard his name come up a lot lately.
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