And So We Wait...

Cliff Alexander's decision will be known soon... Depending on the outcome, the waiting may be the hardest part.

John Groce's second wave of recruits is already a great collection of talent. According to, Quentin Snider, Leron Black and Michael Finke are good enough for the second best 2014 haul in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State.

But why stop at great when you can be elite?

Landing Cliff Alexander would boost this class plenty enough to take that step.

Illinois fans should be happy with what they've already got. The trio of players already set on coming to Illinois will help further Groce's momentum in restoring the Illini program into the national contender that it was not that long ago.

It's hard, though, to avoid the emotional investment that a recruit like Alexander can draw.

He's a 6-foot-9, 250-pound five-star center from the city of Chicago. He's exactly what Illinois supporters crave -- a home-state kid with national credentials. That mix would bring recognition and notoriety, as well as supreme talent to a roster that's quickly developing for next season and beyond.

So what happens if Illinois lands Alexander? Well, you already know. And what if he picks Kansas or somebody else?

Be sad for the weekend. But by Monday, after you've wallowed in the loss for a bit, wake up and realize this is the first of many elite recruiting battles Groce will have you following. He's too good and too driven to let this slow down now.

"You can just tell he really just genuinely loves basketball, his players, his staff, everybody," current senior Jon Ekey said. "He picks people that he wants to be around. You can tell he loves them and they love him back."

Recruiting among the elite is a game you can live and die playing, except when you think you're dead there will be others to bring you back to life. Friday it's Alexander. Next November it will be Carlton Bragg, Charles Matthews, Elijah Thomas and who knows who else.

Be prepared to take a loss or two, as recruiting at this level and with these stakes can be a heart-sinking business.

If the losses can be that defeating, it means the wins are that much more fulfilling. It can also be a thrill-ride stoked full of euphoria.

So now we wait. Alexander announces on national television Friday afternoon. Depending on what happens, the waiting may or may not be the hardest part.

Either way, it won't be the last waiting room you sit in.

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