According to Hoops Hype Canada, Illinois basketball has reached out to Tennessee transfer Ray Kasongo. The Canadian forward averaged 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in limited playing time with the Volunteers last season. Kasongo was visiting TCU on Friday, and he's also heard from Seton Hall.
HHC Sources: Illinois & Seton Hall have reached out to Ray Kasongo at the eleventh hour. Currently on visit at TCU #NCAAdreams— Hoops Hype Canada (@HoopsHypeCA) June 3, 2016
For those of you that aren't familiar with Kasongo's background, the TL;DR version is that he's had a truly bizarre collegiate career so far. He was originally a three-star recruit in the class-of-2014 that committed to Oregon, but his admission was denied due to academic reasons. From there, Kasongo elected to go the JUCO route for a year to presumably clear up his transcripts; he eventually landed with Tennessee a year later. Once in Knoxville, though, Kasongo was suspended one game by the NCAA to clear up an amateurism issue. Now he's transferring after only playing in about 5.5 minutes per game with the program.
Illinois has one open scholarship after the dismissal of Kendrick Nunn, but would adding the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward make sense? I don't think it would.
For starters, Kasongo will be required sit out the 2016-17 season (two years of eligibility remaining afterwards) so he wouldn't be able to help the Illini in an important year. Furthermore, I just don't think it'd be worth it for John Groce to commit multiple scholarship years to someone of Kasongo's caliber. This isn't a player like Charles Matthews, after all. It'd be a small gamble, sure, but I think the program would be better served by grabbing a fifth-year big man so that the scholarship rolls over to the class-of-2017.
So we'll see how this plays out. If the report is indeed accurate, I have a feeling that Illinois' pursuit of Kasongo won't really materialize into anything of note.
Illinois Football Links
"It has a lot of significance," Smith told the Tribune on Friday. "Chicago is important to me personally. To get among the people there, I know the history of the areas we're coming into. A lot of people have come down from Chicago to watch spring ball and they'll say, 'We feel like we already know you because you've been in our homes for a lot of years and we have been with you on Sundays.' "
The senior Rochester native has one shot in the form of this upcoming season to color his legacy as an Illinois quarterback beyond "a viable Big Ten quarterback" or "not the problem."
The three-star Texas native has narrowed his list to Illinois, Kansas, Bowling Green, Colorado State, and Fresno State. Lovie Smith has already received verbal commitments from two other wideouts in this class, so Hill is probably a back-up option at this point. Still, it's always a good sign to be involved with players from this state.
Illinois Basketball Links
Scott Powers: On and off the court for the basketball program, it hasn't exactly gone smooth lately. You still trust that John Groce is the right guy and can turn things around?
Dee Brown: Yes, I'm definitely a Groce supporter. Groce gave me a great opportunity to join his staff. I'm very excited to just learn from him. He had a lot of bad luck. Luck is going to turn back his way, and he's going to show he's a good coach and he will get it done.
It had been well over three decades since the last time Illinois missed the NCAA tournament for three consecutive seasons. It happened from 1978-80 ,and after last season's injury-riddled campaign it has now happened from 2014-16. That's not the kind of achievement John Groce needs on his resume, especially with newly hired athletic director Josh Whitman now in place.