Well everyone, we made it. Today is the first official day of practice for Illinois Football and the opener against Youngstown State is less than a month away. Now it's only logical to follow basketball recruiting to help get through these last few football-less weeks. The other day we examined the guards that the coaching staff has prioritized--today we'll be taking a look at the big guys.
D.J. Williams - Chicago, IL (Simeon)
- 247 Composite: #50, 4-star
DJ has suffered the same fate as Aaron Jordan; due to his early commitment he has been a bit overlooked by the fanbase. Williams has had a fantastic Summer. Throughout the past high school season his lack of aggression was the subject of criticism, but he has answered those questions in a big way. During a recent trip to Dubai, Williams averaged 20 points, 7 rebounds while leading his Simeon team to a tournament championship over some of the best high school programs in the country. His coach Robert Smith said that it was "the best [he's] ever seen him play." The do-it-all wing is looking to continue this high level of play during his senior season. His goals? Win a state championship and become a McDonalds All-American. Good luck, DJ, Illini Nation is pulling for you!
Dillon Brooks - Toronto, ON (Findlay Prep)
- 247 Composite: #94, 4-star
- Remaining Schools: No List
Get used to the Illini going after Canadian players. With Assistant Coach Dustin Ford's relationships up North you can bet we'll be in the hunt for some of Canada's top talent moving forward. Anyway, Brooks is an intriguing prospect. The 6-5 wing is on the rise and has garnered some serious interest from the likes of Kansas, Michigan State, and Michigan. He recently competed in the FIBA U-18 World Championships with Team Canada and was a standout. The only reported offers for Brooks have been Illinois and Iowa State, so it's hard to say which schools he's really interested in.
Carlton Bragg - Cleveland, OH (Villa Angela-St. Joseph HS)
- 247 Composite: #9, 5-star
- Remaining Schools: No List (Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas are "locks" for his Top-5)
The staff was all over Bragg during the evaluation periods and with good reason--the 6-8 forward may be their most talented target. If you can't tell from the above video, the future pro can do it all--and he does it with a certain swagger. While he hasn't put out a top-5, Bragg will almost certainly be attending either Illinois, Kentucky, or Kansas. For you pessimists out there, don't be negative with this recruitment. Earlier this Spring, Bragg actually stated that we were his leader and that, "Illinois was recruiting him the hardest." Coach Groce has been in on Bragg since his days at Ohio. Hopefully that relationship pays off for the Illini
Josh Sharma - Northfield, MA (Northfield Mount Hermon HS)
- 247 Composite: #71, 4-star
- Remaining Schools: No List
Sharma is extremely athletic for a player his size; at 7 feet tall he can run like a deer and jump out of the gym. His ability to run the floor could make him a dangerous weapon in Groce's desired up-tempo offense. There hasn't been much Illinois buzz surrounding Sharma, but we're certainly still in it for him. The other teams to look out for in this recruitment are Wisconsin, UConn, and Boston College. It's believed that the Badgers are the leader for Sharma at this point as he already took an official visit there during the Winter.
Elijah Thomas - Rockwall, TX (Lancaster HS)
- 247 Composite: #17, 5-star
- Remaining Schools (6): Illinois, Oklahoma State, SMU, UNLV, Texas A&M, and LSU
After sitting out most of the Summer with a hand injury, Thomas came back better than ever. The 6-10 Texan dominated during his limited time on the AAU circuit. Thomas' skill set will allow him to contribute immediately on both ends of the floor at the college level. He's proficient with both hands and has a polished arsenal of post moves on the offensive end. For those of you wondering if he's a "package deal" with AAU teammate Jawun Evans, the answer is no. Although the two have discussed it there is no formal agreement between them to play at that same school. There was a report last night that Thomas had cut his list to five schools, but it has since been refuted by Eli himself. Regardless you can count on Illinois being in this recruitment until the very end. UNLV, SMU, and Oklahoma State, and Texas are the other schools I'd expect to see in his upcoming list. Of note: Thomas just told ESPN's Jeff Goodman that he'll be making an official visit to Illinois on September 19th. Expect for him to make his decision on/around November 14th, which is the beginning of the early signing period.
Above: Elijah Thomas (left) and Carlton Bragg (right) take an Illini-themed selfie
Doral Moore - Locust Grove, GA (Luella HS)
- 247 Composite: #37, 4-star
- Remaining Schools (5): Illinois, Kentucky, Florida, Ohio State, Wake Forest
Doral Moore has the potential to be an elite defender at the next level, but his offensive game could use a bit of work. The sky is the limit for Moore while his absolute floor is a sure-handed version of Nnanna Egwu. Don't get your hopes up for him to be an Illini, though. It appeared to be down to Illinois and Wake Forest, but that has changed. Up until this weekend Moore was rumored to be waiting on a scholarship offer from Kentucky (when you're Coach Cal you can afford to slow-play high 4-star recruits). Well what do you know, Cal wasn't feeling so good about his other targets so he finally decided to extend an offer. It seems like Moore is a near lock to go to Kentucky now, but of course a lot can happen between now and signing day.
That's it for Illinois' main targets! The Champaign Room will be providing you with recruiting information throughout the Fall so make sure to keep checking the site and Twitter for breaking news.