So the big news of the day turned out to not really be much news for Illini fans.
Top Illinois prospect Charles Matthews chose to go to Kentucky instead of playing for the Illini. This was not surprising and you can't really blame him. It would be fantastic if the state's top recruit chose to wear orange and blue, but are you going to be mad at a teenager for choosing a blue blood over the home team? I mean, you could be, but that'd be kind of silly.
Shortly after the announcement, I had a brief conversation with one of SBN's basketball gurus and all around good guy, Ricky O'Donnell. Ricky brought up the following point.
@SBN_UGod Yeah. I guess if there was any good to come out of Richmond, it was a 'don't put all your eggs in one basket' type of lesson.— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) February 26, 2014
And that little quip got me to thinking about what other lessons we've learned about basketball recruiting over the last half decade or so thanks to our beloved Illini basketball team.
Lesson 1: Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Teachers: Jereme Richmond, Eric Gordon
Jereme Richmond was supposed to be the recruit that would save Bruce Weber. The crown jewel of the 2010 recruiting class that included Crandall Head and Meyers Leonard, Richmond was a potential lottery pick that decided to stay in state and help bring the Illini back to glory. Everything worked perfectly... except the last part. Richmond had massive maturity issues, quit on the team, and decided to go pro after one lackluster season. He went undrafted. Richmond has been in and out of legal trouble since.
Weber needed Richmond to shine though because after the Eric Gordon situation, his recruiting skills would be doubted throughout the remainder of his Illinois (and current Kansas State) career. The 2007 recruiting class was looking like the beginning of something magical for the Illini. Gordon verbally committed to Illinois in November of his junior year and then spent time working to get Derrick Rose to move to Champaign as well. But then Indiana hired Kelvin Sampson. After months of dubious recruiting, Gordon decided to renege on his verbal weeks before the signing deadline. The 2007 class quickly found itself without a shooting guard and with little time to find one. The 2008 class would be Weber's worst.
Lesson 2: Names don't mean everything
Teachers: Crandall Head, Jeffrey Jordan
Every Illini fan remembers Luther Head. Every sports fan remembers Michael Jordan. And while Jeff Jordan wasn't much of a prospect, Crandall Head was--84th in Rivals 2010 rankings. He managed to score 32 points over two years at Illinois before transferring away to Southern Methodist.
Jordan joined the team as a preferred walk-on, eventually being awarded a scholarship while playing mediocre at best as a back-up guard for three seasons before transferring to play with his more talented brother Marcus at Central Florida.
Lesson 3: Until they sign their LOI, they aren't Illini
Teachers: Eric Gordon, Quentin Snider
We've already covered Gordon, so we'll jump straight to Snider. With it being so recent, apologies if this one still stings a bit. Snider was going to be John Groce's perfect point guard. He was also going to be Groce's first steal with Illinois, as Snider had originally committed to Louisville before deciding to reopen his recruitment. He chose Illinois and we were all ecstatic. But then things fell apart and right before signing day, rumors began to circulate. And then it happened. Snider ultimately decided Louisville was the right choice and stayed with his hometown school.
Lesson 4: Talented transfers don't always work out
Teachers: Alex Legion, Rayvonte Rice (?)
Alex Legion was going to be the balm that soothed the Gordon burn. Legion was a can't miss shooting guard prospect who decided Billy Gillespie was an asshole and that Kentucky wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He then transferred to Illinois, where he completely continued to not live up to any of the hype. He was supposedly amazing in practice, but it sure as hell didn't show on the court during games. When D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul arrived, Legion transferred to Florida International, where he'd eventually be kicked off the team for violating team rules.
I'm wary of putting Rayvonte Rice in this category completely. I'm still giving him the benefit of the doubt that his injury is ultimately what ruined his Big Ten debut season. Remind me of this next winter and we'll update things accordingly.
Lesson 5: These are high school kids, you aren't
Teachers: Cliff Alexander, Eric Gordon, every damn recruit
I was a flake when I was 17. You were a flake when you were 17. Everyone is. You'd only been able to drive a car for a year and people somehow expect you to make decisions that will make everyone happy? Dumb. So, so dumb. Basically this is just me reminding you that no matter what the player does during the recruiting saga, only you can make yourself look bad. So don't tweet at recruits unless they engage you first. Don't send death threats. Don't call them slurs or expletives. And don't record terrible reaction videos. It's basketball.
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