Groce Clearly Constructing a Contender

Elite basketball players are buying into Coach John Groce's vision for the Illinois program.

Well, it hasn't taken long for John Groce to work his way into victory lane at the end of a couple of elite recruiting races.

The past 11 days have seen forward Leron Black and point guard Quentin Snider verbally commit to Groce and his Illini basketball program, a Big Ten sleeping giant fully in the process of awakening.

Black is the No. 46 prospect in the country, Snider considered even better at No. 31.

Top five talent Cliff Alexander is still very much a possibility, even if Kansas is the current leader.

The recent recruiting wins, as well as the roster overhaul due to transfers in this offseason, point to one thing.

Elite players are buying into Groce's vision. Guards, posts, in-state, out-of-state -- players and their families are beginning to trust that Groce is the man to lead them, that Illinois is the place they can win.

Look, it's not like we all didn't see this coming.

Less than nine months on the job, Groce assembled the No. 20 recruiting class in 2013. Impressive, and that's not counting nearly landing Demetrius Jackson and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, two big-time players Groce was able to almost secure only months into his tenure. It's true that close doesn't count in most things, but those near-misses were a sign that Groce wasn't afraid to knock on the doors of the best of the best and give it his best shot.

After Snider's pledge Thursday night, it's becoming quite clear that Groce's best shot, aided by the work of assistants Jamall Walker, Dustin Ford and Paris Parham, is good enough to get the job done.

And the best could be yet to come.

Alexander's decision looms. And the 2015 class is loaded with top-notch prospects, such as Carlton Bragg, Charles Matthews, Jalen Brunson and others, that are truly considering Illinois. Think those guys understand the magnitude of Snider and Black aligning themselves with Groce and the Illini?

Sure they do. Recruiting in college sports is something that can start building on itself, growing bigger and bigger and better and better. With Groce in charge, Illinois' blueprints for success are in good hands.

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