Nobody has ever questioned the aggressiveness or desire that Illinois boss John Groce puts in on the recruiting trail. In many cases that has been rewarded in a big way as the Illini have landed quality prospects all over the place since Groce arrived in Champaign. That is of course with one notable exception, the point guard position.
Even though Groce runs and extremely point guard friendly system, the Illini for whatever reason weren’t able to get it done on the recruiting trail for a top flight point guard. That now has changed with the Wednesday evening decision from Te'Jon Lucas.
Lucas, who is a four-star prospect, selected the Illini over Old Dominion and USC at a press conference, and this is huge for Illinois. Now the Illini have someone to run the show who can take full advantage of the talent on the wing.
If you exclude point guard, Illinois has a ton of talent on their current roster. Junior Malcolm Hill has a chance to be a first team all-Big Ten caliber player this year, classmate Kendrick Nunn is also a very valuable piece, sophomore LeRon Black is a potential pro prospect down the line, and freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands was one of the best recruits in the Midwest last year.
Now Lucas is in the mix and he is a perfect complement to the talented pieces already in place. Lucas is absolutely a pass first point guard who can really create for others and get the team in the right places.
Though he isn’t big, only about 5-foot-11, and not an explosive athlete, Lucas just knows how to play. When using ball screens, which Illinois uses about as much as anybody, Lucas is dynamic. He makes the right read nearly every single time and if a player is open he finds them and his pass is always on time and right in the shooting pocket, making for an easier shot attempt.
Also he is good at changing speeds, getting into the lane, and then making the right decision no matter if that means passing out to a shooter, dropping it off to a big, or looking to score himself.
For Illinois, who has desperately needed a player with Lucas’ feel, this is going to be a major difference maker. While Lucas finds himself just outside of the top 100 rankings wise, he fills a huge need on a team with the talent to get things done around him, and he could become one of the more immediate impact freshmen in the Big Ten because of it.