Johnnie Vassar is a 6'-0" point guard who plays for Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts but has ties to Chicago. Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard has seen Vassar in the northeast and Vassar returned the favor by visiting Champaign this weekend. He was offered a scholarship by the Illini during his visit.
Vassar discussed how the offer from Coach Bruce Weber went down.
"They had already told me I was going to get an offer before I came. They just wanted to make it official. He said, 'You have an offer, and you can commit now if you want.'"
What was the freshman's reaction to being offered a scholarship by the Big 10 program?
"I was excited because this is my first offer and my first visit on a college campus. I was very excited!"
When he was told that it was a committable offer, Vassar said he was flattered but is not ready to make a decision right now.
"I want to wait it out. Right now I am a freshman, and I just want to keep all my options open."
He visited the campus with his mom and cousin. The young floor general discussed the visit.
"The first thing we did was meet with coach Weber. I talked to him for a little while and got to know him better. Then he took me around the practice gym and we talked to the strength and conditioning coach and trainer.
He took me to meet the coaching staff, and then we went to the football game. We met back up with coach Weber and watched a highlight tape and talked. We also went over what I would want to major in if I went there. We met the broadcasting people because I would like to going into sports journalism."
He then met back up with Weber.
"It was really just getting to know each other at first. We talked about how their program is and what it is all about. I really liked it because all the staff is down to earth. Toward the end he told me I had an offer."
Vassar is a fan of the Illinois program and has been following it for a while. He is especially fond of the 2005 team that made history.
"I think they have a very strong basketball program, judging from the people who have come out of there so far. Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head and that whole team that came out. From this year's team, I like their point guard Demetri McCamey."
One aspect Vassar and his family learned about was the academic support the players have at Illinois. This stood out with him.
"I didn't know that much about the university about the academics. It was a good chance to talk to a lot of the different people who work with the team for academics. That let me know it was a strong academic school also.
As far as basketball, I knew a lot about them because I watched Deron Williams play when he was there, and I still follow them. I knew they were a good program."
He also was impressed with how the staff improves players once they arrive on campus.
"I liked how coach Weber makes their players better. I like how they focus on improving the players once they get there."
Vassar has built a strong relationship with lead recruiter Jerrance Howard in the early stages of his recruitment.
"I have talked to him a few times. He came up to my school Lawrence Academy. It seemed like when I met him he was down to earth, and we clicked right away. Today I was talking to him like a normal person, and we got along.
He also got to learn more about Weber during his visit.
"From the time I was with him, he seemed down to earth. The big thing is how he improves his players and gets them ready for the next level. He felt their style of play would fit mine."
Both Howard and Weber believe that Vassar can be a great fit in the Illini system.
"They said they like my explosiveness and ability to pass and score the ball, as well as defense."
A few other schools, including Pittsburgh and Temple, have shown interest in the young guard who averaged 16 points, 7 assists and 3 steals as a freshman for Lawrence Academy last season. He thought he played well stepping in for a guard that played on the college national champs this past season.
"As a freshman this year, I think I played pretty well. It was a little bit difficult at first. Last year we lost Shabazz Napier, and the whole team was gone. I had to step in, and I did pretty well this year. It was great to gain the experience to play against the older kids that were 19 and 20 years old."
On the AAU circuit, he is running with a couple different teams, especially BABC.
"The AAU season is going really well right now. I am playing with BABC, as well as Kenny Smith's team. Right now I am playing with BABC, and so far we went up to Boo Williams and finished second, losing on a buzzer beater. All the other tournaments we have won pretty easily."
For those who haven't seen Vassar play, how would the guard describe his game?
"I am explosive and can jump. Many people say the best part of my game is my defense or the ability to find the open man, and also scoring."
He also discussed the strengths in his game.
"Being able to get to the hole, pull up from mid-range, and defense. I take a lot of charges and block shots."
Much has been made about the relationship between Vassar and Simeon superstar Jabari Parker. He talked about their friendship.
"I have known Jabari since I was 11. We know each other's family pretty well and talk at different events all the time. We played on the same team in AAU when we were younger."
Would he like to play with his friend in college?
"Yes, that is a possibility. He is a good player. That would be cool if it happened."
Last summer, Vassar was the only 8th grader to compete in the prestigious Nike Hoop Jamboree, which selects the top rising sophomores and juniors in the nation. He enjoyed the experience.
"Overall it was a good experience, coming in as one of the younger guys there. I was the only 8th grader. It was great experience to play against some of the top players in the classes above me and being able to hold my own. It also got me prepared for the summer playing against my age group."
Vassar is without a doubt a high major prospect who will be on everyone's radar soon. With this early offer, the Illini have firmly jumped to the front of the pack, saying they want the 2014 guard to play for the Orange and Blue!