That means the Illini coaching staff could take a fifth-year transfer that would be immediately eligible to play, like Sam McLaurin last spring. Or the staff could add an underclassmen transfer, who would have to sit 2013-14 out, in similar fashion to last year's addition of Rayvonte Rice. While the scholarships could be pushed back for use in the 2014 or 2015 high school recruiting classes, Groce said a transfer this spring is likely.
"What are the chances that I'm going to use at least one of them this spring? Very strong," Groce said, answering his own question.
And what about spots two and three?
"We'll see," he said.
Six players return from last year's team and five freshmen will join the program in June. That leaves room to address any number of concerns, including an overall lack of experience, the need for more shooters and help with depth on the frontline.
"I think we have a lot of needs," Groce said. "… I don't know if I can necessarily say, 'hey, we wouldn't take this need with a guy if he's a good fit in terms of the person part and the student athlete part.' I think we've got a lot of areas that we can sure up."
The most recent candidate to surface is Seton Hall guard Aaron Cosby. SNY's Adam Zagoria reported Tuesday the 6-2, 190-pound sophomore will transfer to either Illinois or Missouri. According to sources, Cosby will visit the Illinois campus in the next few weeks. While he shot 40 percent on 3-pointers for the Pirates last season, Cosby won't provide short-term help. He'd have to sit out next season due to transfer rules.
For a more immediate impact, Groce and Company could turn to a fifth-year graduate transfer.
The move to do so last spring with McLaurin paid off in spades last season and is increasingly becoming a popular route to take.
As Groce said, "A coach said to me the other day, 'They're (fifth-year transfers) almost as highly sought as top 50 players (from high school) in the country in the early signing period.' It's kind of become that way a little bit, especially if you can find the right guy, the right fit, that meshes your culture and is a good fit for your program."
The coaching staff will evaluate needs and weigh options, all while keeping an eye toward the 2014 class. Local standout Michael Finke already is verbal committed, and the Illini are in good position with five-stars Jaquan Lyle, Cliff Alexander and Leron Black. They're also keeping in contact with a handful of other talented prospects.
In the meantime, though, Groce is looking for the best available players, regardless of class or position.
"We'll have our antennas up. Our job is to continue to recruit every day," he said. "The guy I use to work for use to say, 'it's like shaving. If you don't do it every day you're going to look pretty shabby.' That's how recruiting is. You've got to roll up your sleeves every day, and you've got to be thinking about it every day and we're going to continue to try to get quality people in our program as well as quality players."