Isaac Chew has been working with the Illinois basketball staff for a couple weeks now. It's been a whirlwind for him, but he's starting to become more comfortable.
"I haven't really gotten my feet under me, but the process is going well, as well as it can go at this point in time. I've been on the road recruiting the last couple of weeks, just trying to get a feel and get some names out there. Trying to get acclimated to everything. It's been going good."
Chew grew up in Chicago and was the 1994 Player Of The Year in the Public League Blue-West division while at Wells High School. That was one of several factors that induced him to leave a high quality Missouri program after one season.
"First and foremost, it was an opportunity to come home; it's 2 1/2 hours from home. I grew up an Illinois fan. I remember the Flying Illini. I remember when Sean Higgins threw the ball in during the Final Four in Seattle. As a kid, I remember all those things. I knew about the history and tradition going into it.
Also, I knew Jamall (Walker, fellow Illini assistant). I've known him since he was a high school coach in Kansas City, so we've talked all the time throughout our careers. And watching Ohio in the NCAA tournament, I've long been a fan of Coach (John) Groce.
"So it was a combination of things. I had to take the opportunity when I could. I'm obviously leaving a very good program behind. Missouri is probably going to be a top 15 team in the country. I think Coach (Frank) Haith has done a great job there.
"But I'm looking for some big things here. I think Illinois is a special place. You can win a national championship here."
He explains Groce prefers a style much like the Tigers, one that should be attractive to recruits as well.
"It's very similar. I think Coach Groce is going to use a lot of ball screen action. We played that a lot at Mizzou. The NBA is going to ball screens, so a lot of kids are really fond of playing with ball screens, playing like the NBA. That's why I think Coach Groce will have a lot of success here."
Chew believes his strengths as a coach and recruiter complement Illini needs well.
"I've been bred the right way in terms of recruiting. I was at Murray State, and before that Indian Hills (Community College), and obviously last year at Mizzou. I've been a part of winning, so I believe I can help bring a winning tradition here. Obviously, I'm blue-collar and hard work. I have a lot of ties different places.
"And I have an infectious energy. I think these guys already have that, and I love being around this group. I've worked with Jamall before. I've always been a fan of Coach Groce. And it's a great opportunity to come home. So I'm really happy right now."
Illini Nation always demands recruiting success in Chicago, and Chew has numerous connections there. But his recruiting background goes far beyond the Chicago city limits.
"I'm a Chicago guy through and through. But if we're winning, nobody cares where we get players from. They only care when you're losing.
"We're going to do the best job we can in the city of Chicago, and the Chicagoland area as a whole. But in the end, we have to get good players. And we have to get players that fit our system. Sometimes that may not be a kid from Chicago.
"I have a lot of ties to AAU coaches and high school coaches there, so we are going to have some opportunities. But we have to get players regardless of where they're from."
Fortunately, Chew has connections all over the country.
I've recruited Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama. I was fortunate enough when I was at Indian Hills, the junior college ranks helped me get involved with things.
"And I spent eight years coaching AAU in Kansas City with one of the great AAU programs in the country (Kansas City Pump N Run). I helped develop that program. So you make a lot of ties and connections through that.
"When I worked at Indian Hills and obviously my time at Murray State, Murray State is kind of in the South a little bit. It's close enough to the Midwest, so we were able to get some different people."
Assistant Dustin Ford will coach the bigs, and Walker will coach guards. Chew's responsibilities are the rest of the team.
"I'm primarily responsible for the wings more than anything, helping them get developed along the way to do things Coach Groce needs down the line. That will be my responsibility to start out with."