The focus to this point has been on the perimeter in the Illini's 2015 recruiting class with two wings committed and a pair of officials for lead guards. Coach John Groce and his staff shifted that focus this weekend to the interior as they hosted four-star power forward Elijah Thomas.
The campus experience was something Thomas loved.
“I enjoyed being around the players and getting to meet the Chancellor and the AD," Thomas said. "What impressed me most was the excitement level with all the fans and the people that are very important at the institution and the athletics. That is what impressed me most.”
Thomas is a major presence on twitter interacting with fans and seeing the support for him and their school. Throughout the weekend he was tweeting pictures and really felt the “Illijah” love the fans gave him.
“I was amazed. It was crazy. I really enjoyed that.”
The senior was accompanied on the visit by his mother who was decked out in orange and blue throughout the visit.
“She enjoyed it," Thomas said. "She liked the coaches. They were cool and fun to be around. The coaches' wives and everything. She enjoyed that.”
He was able to spend an extended period of time with Coach Groce and the rest of the Illini staff on the visit. He spoke about their message to him.
“The overall selling point is starting a movement," he said. "Me going there would be a huge deal. Starting my own brand. Changing the program and being the face of the program.”
Another recruiter for Illinois this weekend came in the form of Chicago (IL) Simeon small forward and Illinois commit D.J. Williams, who is close friends with Thomas.
“DJ is my boy," Thomas said. "I have known DJ for a while. Anytime we are around each other we are cracking jokes and having a great time. I beat him in 2k too!”
Thomas doesn't sound like he will be committing without at least seeing a couple more schools.
Thomas has said previously he would like to decide during signing week on ESPNU. The big man broke down his decision timeline at this stage.
“I am not sure what I will be doing," he said of his eventual announcement. "I am really looking forward to my last two visits. My birthday is October 10 as well. That is what I am looking forward to taking my last two visits. Taking everything in and seeing where you can see yourself playing.”
Illinois is also heavily pursuing Thomas’ teammate on the Nike EYBL circuit with Team Texas Elite Jawun Evans. Oklahoma State and Illinois are both in play for the duo. While they are friends, they are not a package deal and haven’t been discussing recruiting much lately.
“We haven’t really been talking about it too much,” Thomas said of he and Evans.
Overall this was a positive weekend in the Thomas recruitment for Illinois.
“I enjoyed it. Everything that went on this weekend I enjoyed. It was really cool," Thomas said.
"I felt like I was at home. That was the best part about it.”