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Illinois Hoops Crootin’ Roundup

Let’s take a closer look at the current recruiting targets for the Illini staff.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Illini staff is still chipping away at the recruiting prospects that I mentioned last week.

Florent Thamba did take an official visit the Virginia Tech last week. As we all know, Buzz Williams has won a recruiting battle over Brad Underwood and his staff before, so we will see if it will be more of the same with Thamba.

A few weeks back when Illinois offered several targets, such as Thamba and Maurice Calloo, they also placed out three other offers to Luis Rodriguez, Keshaun Saunders and Tevian Jones. Today, I will be profiling Rodriguez and Saunders to give you a better look at the type of player the staff is pursuing.

Luis Rodriguez: 6-foot-6 SG (Woodstock Academy)

This west coast shooting guard is long, rangey and athletic. He’s got really good length that makes him a solid defender. His on-the-ball defensive skills could use work, but he has proven that he is very skilled at stripping ball handlers, and he’s also an above average shot blocker for a guard.

Rodriguez is a talented ball handler himself, but he isn’t going to out muscle many players his size at the rim. He showed decent penetrating skills against players that were smaller and less athletic than he, but he would likely struggle to get into the paint against Big Ten defenders. His best quality is one you want to see out of a two-guard — he can shoot the ball at a high clip.

His shot is almost effortless if you watch his tape and he is solid at knocking down shots with a defender in his face from distance.

Luis really didn’t have any Division I offers before September, but the staff obviously sees something they like out of him.

Keshaun Saunders: 6-foot-4 SG (Orangeville Prep)

Saunders is an absolute bulldog on the basketball court. He has an aggressive, “get out of my way” style of play that lends itself well to his game. That aggressiveness makes him a really good finisher inside. You can see him in highlight tapes shrugging off contact to score the basketball regularly.

I also think that he is a better shooter than Rodriguez. He has an incredibly quick release, and he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger from anywhere on the floor. His shot is quick enough that he doesn’t need to create a lot of space for himself to splash home a three-pointer.

Something exciting to look at out of this kid’s game is that he dunks the ball like he’s mad at the rim. I mean, he absolutely punishes the bucket when he flushes one home. It’s really a sight to see.

Saunders is a lot more flashy than Rodriguez, but that confidence and aggression in his game is what drives him. One thing you can always count on with Saunders is you won’t ever see him go to the basket soft.

He has a really strong crossover that he uses liberally to create separation. Once he gets separation, he’s a good off the dribble shooter, or he can drive right past the defender. He has a dangerous offensive skillset. That being said, he isn’t much to write home about on the defensive end.