The basketball programs, though, headed in different directions. John Groce revitalized Illinois, which quickly translated to the recruiting trail.
Collins hopes to do the same in Evanston. And that may now involve the first basketball recruiting war in recent memory. Aaron Jordan is worth it.
Asked which schools were recruiting him the hardest, Jordan quickly responded: "Northwestern is one of them. Illinois is another."
Jordan is a budding star in Illinois, and NU wisely staked a claim in his recruitment this past month. He and former AAU teammate Joseph Toye recently visited campus, and Jordan said he enjoyed the experience. Playing locally appeals to the 2015 Plainfield East (Ill.) shooting guard.
"My parents could go to all of my games if I were to go [to Northwestern]," he said. "It's a good campus and good education. I'd get everything out of it."
Jordan's recruitment has yet to "blow up," somehow. Plainfield East builds its offense around the dynamic guard. He's a plus-shooter from everywhere on the floor, and looks the part of an above-average defender with his impressive length.
On Sunday at Riverside-Brookfield, he added another piece to the repertoire: an incredible basketball IQ. With his team trailing 37-34 against Mount Carmel and about 20 seconds remaining, Jordan recognized his opponents' aggressive defense and used it to his advantage.
Jordan broke hard off a screen and drew contact while attempting a three-point field goal. He went to the line and coolly made all three shots.
"I knew the defender was going to foul me," Jordan said. "All I had to do was knock down the free throws."
Not all players face up to that level of competition. He kept going at it. Down two late in the first overtime, Jordan missed a potential game-tying shot. Instead of giving up, he put back his own miss at the buzzer. Plainfield East eventually earned the emotional win.
"Our team is full of character," he said. "When we're on the floor, it shows."
Jordan also credits several mentors for his recent growth. On top of his high school coach, he said the 16U Illinois Celtics (now Illinois Stars) staff–including coach Troy Johnson–has helped to advance his game.
"They influenced me and made me the see the game from a whole different standpoint," Jordan said.
Coaches are beginning to pay more attention. Jordan reports offers from schools such as Illinois State, Creighton and Valparaiso. Still, with the right moves, it could be Collins versus Groce for his commitment.
Collins will watch Jordan in July, and shouldn't leave until giving out an offer. The top local shooting guard could earn as high as a four-star rating when the Scout.com updates are released. Regardless, his game speaks for itself.
He's more than just a talented kid. He's also someone who has the mindset required to lead his team.
Aaron Jordan is a winner. People are only starting to figure that out.