As it stands now, Illinois Basketball will have six scholarships available for the 2017 recruiting class. That will almost certainly change over the next year or so, but this class will be extremely important to the Illini regardless of the exact number of spots. It's obviously still early, there are already several highly promising in-state options which means John Groce and the Illinois coaching staff should be able to land at least one major prospect.
A top 2017 recruiting class (combined with a good 2016-17 season) could carry momentum over into 2018 where there are, again, several promising players from Illinois. So with all that being said, here's an early look at some 2017 and 2018 recruits that will be key to the future of Illinois Basketball. If Illinois can add one of these prospects (especially the 2017 guys) early it will really help build momentum going forward.
Class of 2017
Nojel Eastern | Evanston | Combo Guard
Evanston's Nojel Eastern is one of the top combo guards in the country. Illinois was in on Eastern extremely early which is a good thing because he's starting to attract attention from several top-tier programs. In addition to Illinois, Eastern has received offers from Purdue, UNLV, Seton Hall, and Bradley; Michigan State and Northwestern have also shown interest.
Eastern is a bigger guard at 6'4. He's a lefty with an all-around game; he can drive, shoot, and pass extremely well. He would absolutely thrive in the ball screen-focused offense that Coach Groce runs. There seems to be mutual interest between the two parties as Eastern already took an unofficial visit to Champaign back in August.
Jeremiah Tilmon | East Saint Louis | Forward
That big man everyone has been asking for? Look no further than East Saint Louis' Jeremiah Tilmon. Tilmon is a guy that could control the paint for the Illini. He has the skills and intangibles that you can't teach--athleticism, quickness, and the ability to finish near the rim with ease. He'd obviously need to add a little muscle before his freshman season, but Tilmon has the potential to be one of the best big men in the country.
Illinois and Kansas State have already offered, but, like Nojel Eastern, it's only a matter of time until the blue-bloods follow suit. Kansas, Indiana, and Kentucky have already shown some initial interest in the big man. Tilmon would be a monumental get for the Illini and would solve virtually all of Illinois' problems down low. The good news for the Illini is that Tilmon appears to look up to Malcolm Hill; there are even rumors that Tilmon will transfer to one of the Bellville schools next year (Hill's hometown).
Alonzo Verge | Willowbrook | Point Guard
Alonzo Verge has truly bust onto the scene out at Willowbrook--he scored 40 points multiple times this season while carrying his team to a 21-8 record. The 6'3 point guard has sick handles (seriously, watch that mixtape) and can stroke it from long range.
Verge surprisingly only has one college offer (Providence), but that will change this Spring/Summer. I think programs may be concerned that his game is all flash, but Verge is for real. He's one of the best sophomores in Illinois--if not the country--and Illinois should offer him as soon as possible to establish an early relationship.
Class of 2018
Kezo Brown | Simeon | Guard
In case you don't remember the interview we did with him back in November, Kezo Brown is one of the top freshman in the country. Brown is one of the few freshman in Simeon history to make the varsity team and, considering all of the talent playing ahead of him, he had a very successful season. Tim Miles and Nebraska are the only ones to offer so far, but Illinois (several unofficial visits) and Kansas have been pursuing him as well.
Kezo appears to be that 'next level' guy that comes out of Simeon every couple of years. Illinois has done a pretty good job getting into this recruitment and they will need to continue to pursue him. With DJ Williams helping to recruit him, I think Illinois has a decent shot at nabbing what would be a program-changing player.
For those of you that don't use Twitter, you should know that Brown is constantly tweeting about Illinois. This is most likely due to his relationships with several former Simeon players on the team, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Chase Adams | Marian Catholic |Point Guard
The only reason Chase Adams hasn't garnered as much interest as Kezo Brown is because he has yet to grow into his frame. Bradley is the only school that's offered Adams so far, but like other players mentioned in this post, that should change this Spring/Summer. Brown and Adams have been play on the same AAU team (Mac Irvin Fire) and have been friends for awhile--which means a package deal wouldn't be entirely out of the question down the road.
Adams goes to the same school that produced Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis (the two have a pretty good relationship). We'll have to wait and see how/if Illinois gets involved with Adams, but hopefully the staff has learned their lesson about passing on small point guards from Marian Catholic.
Tim Finke | Centennial | Guard
Michael Finke's younger brother Tim is already gaining recognition as one of the top freshmen in the nation. With Finke being in Champaign and having a brother on the team, the Illini need to lock this one up. Things are tougher in 2018 with only one scholarship to give, but if anybody takes it, it should be Finke.
It may not be that easy, though. Finke has already picked up interest from Kansas and even took a visit to Lawrence for this year's 'Late Night at the Phog'. However of all the players on this 'list' it's probably safe to say that Finke is the most likely to sign with the Illini.
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