John Groce has locked down a potential contributor at point guard to help replace Tracy Abrams, who recently suffered a torn Achilles tendon and will miss his second consecutive season due to injury. Khalid Lewis, a fifth-year transfer from La Salle, committed to the Fighting Illini on Saturday after taking a visit to campus last week.
Not much is known about the 6'3 guard, and his statistical outlook isn't particularly promising. In the Atlantic Ten conference, which is obviously a significant step down from the level of competition awaiting him in this season's Big Ten, Lewis shot only 37 percent from the field.
Averaging roughly 27 minutes over his 33 appearances, Lewis scored six points per game and had just over two assists per game. He turned it over nearly as frequently as he did assisting on baskets, giving it away 1.6 times per game.
Lewis's three-point shot last season was the best of his career, averaging 33 percent shooting on two attempts per game from beyond the arc. This is one area where he could be significantly more useful than current starting point guard Jaylon Tate, who has shot, uh, 5.7 percent from the three-point line over his entire career.
The current Illini roster is not completely starved for ball handlers. With the addition of Lewis, the Illini now have two point guards who can at least run some semblance of an offense. Malcolm Hill will be relied upon to create both for himself and others. D.J. Williams was comfortable in a point forward role in high school, and will perhaps be used to create for a bench unit. Even Kendrick Nunn showed some point guard skills throughout his first two seasons, though his handle could use work. Jalen Coleman-Lands will return from his injury in time for the regular season and could provide some playmaking as a combo guard.
Lewis is a very safe recruit to accept--the Illini have an open scholarship that isn't going anywhere, there doesn't seem to be a better guard on the market, and Lewis will be gone after this season no matter how much he contributes to the team. This can only be a positive for the Illini unless Lewis creates devastating chemistry problems, which seems unlikely.
Just don't expect him to contribute much in any area other than shooting and defense. If he stands in the corner and shoots 33 percent from behind the line while Malcolm Hill runs the entire offense, then this is a successful acquisition.
Also, everybody can stop whining about losing a recruiting battle to Portland State. Clearly, the Illini wanted this guy.