The 2014-15 campaign is over for Illinois Basketball and it's time to look ahead to the offseason. The coaching staff will primarily be occupied with evaluations of current personnel for the next few weeks, but it's only a matter of time until recruiting becomes the main focus once more.
In case you haven't been following recruiting, you should know that reinforcements are already on the way this offseason. Jalen Coleman-Lands (4-star guard), Aaron Jordan (4-star guard), and D.J. Williams (4-star forward) are all set to report to campus in early June; Darius Paul will also be making his return to Champaign as a junior college transfer. Combined, the four additions comprise what is currently the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation. There's still work to be done, though.
Here are the major storylines to follow during the upcoming recruiting season.
1. Will Illinois land Marcus LoVett?
This will undoubtedly be the No. 1 story to follow this Spring. Morgan Park high school's Marcus LoVett is currently the No. 92 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, but don't let that fool you--he's one of the top point guards in the country. LoVett set a Class 3A state record with 45 points (20/27 shooting) in the semi-finals against Belleville Althoff; John Groce and Paris Parham were in Peoria to see him this past weekend.
Pittsburgh, St. Johns, and Memphis are Illinois' main competition right now, but there's still time for other programs to come calling. The only reason they haven't already is because there are concerns that he won't be able to qualify (you can read a bit more about that here). Regardless, LoVett would be a monumental addition to Illinois' 2015-16 roster and he would most likely see significant playing time immediately.
Here's LoVett's most recent highlight video. You should take the time to watch it.
2. How will the 13th scholarship be used?
Illinois Basketball currently has one open scholarship for the 2015-16 season thanks to the departure of Aaron Cosby. Even with Tracy Abrams returning from his knee injury, the Illini are still in desperate need of a dynamic lead guard; some more front court depth wouldn't hurt either. So how exactly will it be used? Here are the options:
- Recruit another player from the class of 2015
- Snag a transfer from another school
- Give it to Mike LaTulip or another walk-on
- Roll it over to 2016
(Click here to view the Illinois Basketball Scholarship Grid)
3. Transfer/Decommitment Market
This is the time of year where roster moves occur seemingly every day and, if you haven't been paying attention to the news, things are already happening. Coaches are being fired, players are transferring and being dismissed, and it's only a matter of time until the first wave of decommitments hit the market.
When asked about the current roster situation during his season-ending press conference, John Groce was noncommittal about everyone returning. He stated that he'll be meeting with each individual player during the coming weeks to figure out what's in the best interest for each party. It may not be likely, but it's entirely possible that another scholarship could open up via an outgoing transfer. We'll just have to wait and see.
4. Closing in on 2016 priorities
The Illini currently have two scholarships available for the 2016 class and they're in desperate need of a quality lead guard and big man. The good news is that two point guards--Alterique Gilbert and Bryce Aiken--included Illinois in their top three schools this past week. John Groce has also been keeping tabs on Xavier Simpson; the Ohio native has received major interest from the staff.
Nolan Narain and Isaac Humphries are two big men that attend La Lumiere Prep (Illini signee Jalen Coleman-Lands' school) and they're the high-priority targets along with Hinsdale South's Barret Benson.
Simeon's Zach Norvell, St. Joseph's Nick Rakocevic, and No. 3 overall recruit Jayson Tatum don't fall under 'areas of need', but you should remember their names.
(Click here for a scouting report of the current 2016 targets)
5. Furthering relationships with 2017 targets
Illinois is quietly setting themselves up for a monster 2017 recruiting class. As it stands now the program is expected to have six open scholarships, but that number will almost certainly decrease over the next year.
Nojel Eastern (PG, Evanston) and Jeremiah Tilmon (PF, East St. Louis) are both Illinois natives that could end up being two of the top recruits in the country. Assistant coach Dustin Ford has also used his Canadian connections to establish early relationships with Jerome Desrosiers and Christian David. It may not seem likely at this juncture, but No. 2 overall recruit Michael Porter (Columbia, MO) could also be in the mix for this class.