In late April it was reported that 2014 power forward Cliff Alexander had a top three of Kentucky, Michigan State and Illinois. Shortly after those reports surfaced Alexander took to Twitter to deny that he had a top three. In fact, his exact words were "I DO NOT HAVE A TOP 3."
Well, it's not the same thing as Alexander declaring a top three, but according to Jeremy Woo at Zagsblog the recruitment of Alexander has become a three-horse race.
As Alexander's game has expanded, his recruitment has ramped up. Interested parties include Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan State, who have made Alexander a top priority. It's widely believed to be a three-horse race for Alexander's services.
In-state suitors Illinois and head coach John Groce hope the Chicago Curie star will anchor their frontline in a major way next year.
"They're telling me they want me bad," Alexander said. "They're going to develop me into a stretch-four. Coach Groce is a great guy-he's funny, he cracks a lot of jokes. We've really built a nice relationship."
Now, while trying to get over the image of John Groce telling a high school kid "I want you bad," let's focus on the possibility of Alexander winding up at Illinois.
It's something we all want, for obvious reasons. Even if Alexander was to only stay in school for a year before leaving for the NBA, he's the kind of player that can lead a team to the Final Four and possibly a national championship before bolting. And I don't think there are any Illini fans who wouldn't be down with a Final Four trip, as well as what landing a top recruit like Alexander can do for future recruiting as well.
The problem is looking at the two schools the Illini are up against.
John Groce has impressed on the recruiting trail thus far, but asking him to beat John Calipari and Tom Izzo in a situation like this is difficult. Especially when you add in the fact that Alexander, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor have all considered the idea of attending school together.
Kentucky has the kind of room to make that happen. Illinois doesn't.
So when you consider all of these factors, you can't help but think the Illini are in third place amongst those three schools. That being said, I don't think John Groce and the Illini should be counted out, either. After all, if John Groce has worked hard enough to get the Illini in this race with Kentucky and Michigan State, then he can probably work hard enough to win the race as well.
You can always count on Cliff.
ONCE AGAIN I DO NOT HAVE A TOP 3— Cliff Alexander (@humblekid11) May 26, 2013