It's been months since I've really, truly written anything non-news related about Illinois basketball. That's how upset and discouraged I was after the 2015-16 season concluded. The disappointment was tangible. BUT THAT MISGUIDED FEELING OF HOPE IS FINALLY BACK.
Let's talk about basketball recruiting. I asked our Twitter followers to tweet us some questions, and a small handful happily obliged. So enough of this intro, let's get to our impromptu version of #AskTCR.
NOTE: If you want the real #AskTCR to start up again before football season, let us know in the comments.
@Champaign_Room Odds of getting Tilmon and Goodwin?— Dean Parr (@3AboveParr) July 6, 2016
Yeah let’s just get these out of the way. I won’t pretend to know anything that you don’t, but I like where Illinois is at with Jeremiah Tilmon. I think his recent visit to Champaign was great news, and it proves he’s still genuinely interested in the program despite holding off from a Spring decision. As for a percentage? I’ll go ahead and say about 35%. Illinois will be involved until the very end, but defeating the other schools in his top-five will be a massive challenge.
I feel considerably better about Jordan Goodwin. His stock predictably exploded this AAU season, and he’s received a plethora of offers from high-major programs. I’m worried about Michigan State here, but Illinois has been involved since the very beginning and I think that fact will ultimately sway him in right direction. So we’ll go 65% confidence for Goodwin.
Multiply those numbers together and you get 22.75%. Unfortunately, Twitter dot com tells me Illinois never lands any recruits so there’s actually a 0% chance, I’m afraid.
@Champaign_Room we know the 2017 'must gets,' but who are the guys we shouldn't sleep on?— Sam LeRoy (@samleroy18) July 5, 2016
Four-star point guard Trent Frazier is the first name that comes to mind. John Groce is heavily pursuing other backcourt options to compliment four-star combo guard Da’Monte Williams, and the Florida native recently named Illinois his leader. Again I know nothing, but it just seems like it’s only a matter of time until he joins the Orange and Blue.
Four-star centers Theo John (MN) and Victor Uyaelunmo (FL) are other players to keep an eye on because they’re the best backup options for Jeremiah Tilmon (more on this below). Between the two, Illinois has been involved with John longer so he may be more likely to commit.
As for an Illinois native that you may be more familiar with — don’t sleep on Nojel Eastern. The former point guard turned 6-foot-6 wing may be overshadowed due to Tilmon and Jordan Goodwin, but he’s one of the top players in the class. The Illini offered Eastern back in July of 2014, and he’d be a great fit on the perimeter after Malcolm Hill departs.
Note: I'll be updating our list of 2017 recruiting targets sometime this week.
@Champaign_Room if Tilmon doesn't pick the Illini, what other bigs could they land to improve the program? #Illini— ChiIllini (@ChiIllini) July 6, 2016
What makes Tilmon so important for Illinois is the fact that there’s such a huge drop-off between him and the other realistic options. In the event of Tilmon going elsewhere, the Illini are likely looking at fringe Top-100 talent for a huge area of need. Obviously not the best news, but they’re indeed involved with several players.
Depending on when Tilmon’s decision takes place in this scenario, you’d probably see Illinois devote a ton of resources to four-star center Derek Culver (OH). Although Arizona, Indiana, and Florida are some of the schools involved, the Illini offered early and seemed to have developed a pretty good relationship. Landing Culver would be an absolute coup at this point, in my opinion.
But, again, that isn’t really the most realistic option. No, Illinois would look to quickly close the deal on Theo John (MN) and Victor Uyaelunmo (FL); three-star prospect Terrence Lewis is another alternative, however he looks to fill more of a 4/3 role.
After those names? Yeah, let’s hope it doesn’t progress past that point. There are some decent players, sure, but no one you’d want to award big minutes to as a freshman.
@Champaign_Room explain the theory behind multiple offers and timing of acceptance - how do we wait when a lesser prospect commits— Dan Dillard (@ddillard32) July 6, 2016
This depends on a lot of things, and it varies depending on the situation and program. Let’s use Illinois’ front court as an example for now. Programs will always have their ‘Tier 1’ type targets that will be accepted no matter what the scholarship circumstances may be; Jeremiah Tilmon obviously fits that bill for the Illini this Summer.
Verbal commitments from ‘Tier 2’ targets (i.e. Theo John, Victor Uyaelunmo) would absolutely be accepted by the coaching staff at any time. However, John Groce would continue to go after Tilmon and essentially recruit over them. You do whatever you can to get him on campus, even if that means potentially revoking an offer from another, earlier verbal commit. Nothing is official until they sign a National Letter of Intent. But Illinois has, like, four more scholarships to use on the class-of-2017 so I don’t anticipate any issues this offseason.
I think I answered the question? If not, let me know in the comments.
@Champaign_Room will we ever be good again?— Andrew (@AVSIllini) July 6, 2016
That depends on what your definition of "good" means. Will Illinois ever make it back to the 2005 Death Star level? I wouldn’t bet on it — not in today’s college basketball landscape. But can they get back to the NCAA Tournament on a yearly basis? Yeah! And I think there’s a good chance of that beginning this Winter.
I’m still very, very far away from being sold on the team’s point guard depth, but I think there’s enough talent elsewhere to mask that deficiency. I mean, it’s absurd to really expect anything out of Tracy Abrams and, while Te’Jon Lucas may develop into a nice player, he’s still a three-star freshman coming off of his own foot injury.
I can’t wait to watch Illinois’ front court this season. Maverick Morgan has developed into a good Big Ten center, and Michael Finke had some fantastic moments as a freshman. When Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black fully return from their injuries, the Fighting Illini may have a surprisingly strong four-man unit at their disposal. All those big guys need to do is find a way to stay out of foul trouble.
Plus, there’s Malcolm Hill. He’s the type of player that can carry this team for weeks at a time, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him achieve some sort of All-American status at year’s end. I’m proud to call Hill my classmate, and I’ll be cheering like hell for him to reach the postseason. He deserves it after three years of this hot mess.