Jordan Ash had been to the Illinois campus before, but only for basketball games. His visit Saturday included an opportunity to see more of the school and get acquainted with new head coach John Groce and his assistants.
"It was fun. When we first got there, we met with Coach (Jamall) Walker, and he took us to meet the rest of the coaching staff. We talked to them about Coach Groce's background and coaching years. Then we watched some highlight film.
"After that, we went on a golf cart to take a tour of the campus. That was my first time having a campus tour. The campus is very beautiful. Then we went to the Assembly Hall and walked around there.
"When we got back, we got a chance to watch Tracy Abrams in his one-on-one workout with Coach Walker. Then we went into Coach Groce's office and watched some stuff about his style of play and the way he uses his guards, with a lot of screens and stuff like that.
"After that, we talked about media exposure and the opportunities I could get academically and athletically at the University of Illinois."
A scholarship offer wasn't on the agenda Saturday, but that is possible after the July evaluation period.
"He said he looked forward to watching me in July, and we'd go forward from there."
Ash was impressed by Groce.
"He made a good impression on me, and I feel I made a good impression on him as well. We got to learn what he stands for. He looked me in the eyes and talked to me. It's not a thing where he was lying to me or saying things he wants me to hear. He means what he's saying. It was the same with the whole coaching staff."
It appears the Illinois coaching staff proved more than expected.
"It was kind of funny at first because it was my first time seeing this coaching staff. But they made a great impression. They're good people."
Ash expressed interest in Illinois with the previous Illini coaching staff. Was the transition to a new staff at all difficult for him?
"It wasn't difficult for me. I feel that I'm sociable and can talk to new people. The only adjustment I really had to make, compared to Coach (Bruce) Weber and his guys, was Coach Groce has more of a guard-oriented offense. They like to play a little faster. I had only talked to the previous Illini coaches once or twice."
Ash wants to come back to campus to learn more about the academic opportunities available to him.
"All the academic people were gone on a convention I believe. So I really didn't get a chance to see the academic building with the study halls and all that stuff. Coach Groce really wants me to come back to meet the people that actually run that. That experience is really important."
The 6'-1" point guard is eager to return to campus for that purpose.
"I'm planning to do down again sometime soon. If not, I want to go to a game. Once we're down there, I'll get a good chance to see it."
Ash plays for the Illinois Wolves in the summer. He shared his July schedule.
"I was just talking to Coach (Mike) Mullins. I'll be playing up with the 16's, and the 16's will be playing up. So I will most definitely be at Riverside-Brookfield the second weekend in July. And I believe after that we go to Milwaukee, and then we go back to Fort Wayne."
Ash also plays with the Wolves 15U team that has several point guards. Fortunately, he's versatile and can adapt.
"It's an adjustment, but we each can adjust. We have a fantastic coaching staff. The 15's, 16's and 17's are all a team. The only adjustment was jelling as a team and learning the way Coach wants us to play. When we do it, that's when you see us winning games."
During the school year, Ash plays with the legendary Gene Pingatore at St. Josephs of Westchester. Several of his teammates are guards also.
"Last year I was on the JV team, and it was all guards. We're still on the small side with the varsity, but we have bigger guys also. We'll have two or three guards instead of like four or five."
His personal game is continuing to improve.
"I've been maturing and working on things Coach Mullins and Coach Pingatore want me to work. When the entire coaching staff see things that I may be doing wrong or could get a little better at, they let me know. I work on it because I want to get better. They know what they're talking about; they've seen it all. So I'm all ears."
The visit made a good impression on Ash. He now has three years to earn a coveted scholarship offer. Given his versatility, talent and work ethic, the future is indeed bright.