What Had to be Done

COLUMN: Players transferring from Illinois was a tough deal that had to be done.

CHAMPAIGN - There's commonly two ways to look at a transfer situation in college basketball, especially if they come in bunches.

It can be a negative, a situation soured with a player (or players) parting with a program he once was in love with, either by choice or through a squeeze play on behalf of the staff.

The positive connotation is that a scholarship is opened up, and the player can move on to more playing time or a more suitable fit.

Usually the way an outsider perceives a transfer depends on if he or she roots for or against the team the player is leaving.

In the case of Devin Langford, Mike Shaw and Ibby Djimde leaving Illinois, the truth is somewhere in between the two polar views.

The three were signed by a different coach, at a different time, under different circumstances and for a different system. And presently, scholarships are honored on a yearly basis.

Coach John Groce came in and did the customary good deed. He let everybody returning from Bruce Weber's roster remain for a season, evaluated what he had and at season's end moves were made.

I saw it at Georgia after the initial season with Mark Fox at the helm -- three players departed in the spring following that first year.

The same has now happened at Illinois. I'm not saying Groce ran the trio off, but it became clear early on that none of the three were going to be main contributors, not this season or in the future. Groce strikes me as a person who truly cares, so I trust he'll see to it these guys, who will forever be included on the list of 'his guys,' find the right landing spot. While it's surely unsettling now, a change was in each player's best interest, given they each have multiple years of eligibly remaining.

Point blank, with the space needed for the upcoming recruiting cycle, it was best for the Illini if one or two or three players moved on.

If it seems like business-arena means, it's because it is. It may sound harsh, but it was either those players went or the coaching staff could potentially end up going.

That's how important the upcoming recruiting cycle is. The Illini, already with local product Michael Finke committed, have a very real shot with five-stars Jaquan Lyle, Cliff Alexander and Leron Black. They're pursuing five-star center Jahlil Okafor and keeping in contact with the likes of four-star talents Paul White, Larry Austin, Trevon Bluiett and others.

Without the departures of this week, signing any of these recruits would not have been possible. Playing in the Big Ten and hoping to once again lead Illinois to national prominace, Groce doesn't have time nor the space to play Mr. Nice Guy.

Ultimately if he is to be successful, it will be because of the the way he recruited the 2014 and 15' recruiting cycles. A few tough decisions were made this week to enhance the ability to get the job done.

In college basketball, like it, love or hate it, that's just the way it is.


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