John Groce and the Fighting Illini have extended scholarship offers to two class-of-2019 front court players. According to Scout's Brian Snow, five-star forward James Wiseman (TN) and four-star center Francis Okoro (IL) became the latest additions to the programs big board. Both prospects play for the St. Louis Eagles on Nike's EYBL circuit.
Illinois just offered 2019 @STLEaglesBBall products Francis Okoro and James Wiseman— Brian Snow (@BSnowScout) July 15, 2016
Wiseman is the No. 5 overall player in Scout's latest class-of-2019 rankings. Okoro, meanwhile, is literally the first player outside of the website's Top-25. I think that makes him No. 26 in the nation? I can't say for certain without an actual designation.
We're obviously talking about high school sophomores here, so it's not worth getting too excited about either player. It's a smart move by Groce to get out ahead of the curve, though. Especially for Okoro, who's shaping up to be one of the top in-state prospects. There's a pretty decent chance that Jeremiah Tilmon won't be around for all four years of his eligibility, so the coaching staff needs to start laying foundations for possible replacements.
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"There's an instant impact with [Tilmon's] size, mobility, ability to move his feet, ability to protect the rim, his skill set. There's an instant impact that he'll bring right away. He'll bring a little bit of an edge, and along with that he brings some excitement of a home-state kid. He's only scratching the surface of his potential."
Illinois' Week 1 contest against Murray State is 50 days away! To celebrate (?), the program put out a huge slideshow of Dick Butkus pictures. Because we all need more Dick Butkus in our lives.
West Virginia should be a really interesting test for Malcolm Hill and the Illini. The Mountaineers (26-5, 13-5) finished second behind Kansas in the Big 12 last season and, although they ultimately lost in the First Round, they received a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.