Eastern battled some injuries throughout the year, but this summer he has remained healthy and shown why he can be an impact player.
Recently, he performed very well at Peach Jam down in Augusta, GA, and did so in front of Illinois coaches, who on Monday extended an offer to the rising sophomore.
"Illinois just offered Nojel," his mother told Scout.com. "I'm proud of my son, but much work still needs to be done."
Coach Groce was the one to call Nojel's mother to let her know about the offer the Illini would extend to her son.
"Coach Groce called," she said. "We didn't want to get overly excited, but we were both on the phone and just listened to Groce talk and took what he said to heart and thanked him."
Eastern, who visited the Illini earlier this spring, will likely return to Champaign sometime in August for another visit, but this time, with offer in hand.
In the mean time, Eastern plans to head out to Las Vegas for the Fab 48 event.
Eastern caught up with us later to fill us in more on the offer and how it went down.
"I had to call Coach Groce and we talked and said he was offering me," Eastern said. "I was very excited. It motivated me on the court and in the classroom."
Eastern has grown as a player over the last few months considerably, and Coach Groce took notice of that.
"He said he likes how I'm a leader on the court, likes my IQ for the game, and how I play well at both ends of the floor," he said.
Despite his youth, Eastern is already building a good relationship with the in-state staff at Illinois.
"They're great people and fun to be around," he said. "But when it comes to basketball, they are very good at what they do and very knowledgeable about the game."
The early offer to Eastern implies that the Illinois staff feels confident in their evaluation of the young prospect.
"I sense that because they offered first out of the schools recruiting me that they know how they are going to be able to use me more at this part of the process," he said.
Eastern, who said he is also hearing from Michigan State, Purdue, and Indiana a lot, said he lets his mother handle most of the day-to-day recruiting tasks and focuses on his improvement instead. And in July he was able to showcase that improvement.
"(July) has gone really well," he said. "I play with a great program with great players and got great exposure. I think I need to improve my shooting and my knees, but I'm growing so that will come with time. But I need to continue to work hard on my all around game. I have one of the best trainers in Octavious Parker."
Illinois was one of the first to offer Eastern, but certainly won't be the last. Stay locked in here at IlliniPlaybook for the latest on Eastern's recruitment and Illinois recruiting as well.