Evaluating Points

After an extensive spring evaluation period, including multiple looks at 2016 Illini point guard targets, we break down each potential target.

Much like in 2015, Illinois is heavily involved with a number of quality point guard prospects in the 2016 class. After having an opportunity to see them several times this spring, we evaluate them side by side and look at how they might fit in at Illinois.

Alterique Gilbert

Position Rank: 8
High School: Miller Grove HS (GA)
Considering: Illinois, Louisville, Syracuse, Connecticut, Texas

Gilbert easily has the highest ceiling of this group. The scrappy junkyard dog of a point guard is a deadly slasher and has no qualms about taking some contact when going to the hoop. Having a player like #1-ranked Harry Giles on his AAU team certainly helped his cause, but Gilbert more than displayed this spring that he is a player, and showed that he can be effective as a distributor as well.

Gilbert is still a little raw as far as being a floor general is concerned, but he is by no means a combo guard. He is working toward becoming more vocal and orchestrating the half-court offense. But those are attributes that improve with experience and time. Louisville and childhood-favorite Syracuse will likely be the biggest contenders here, but he has often stated that Illinois is selling him on being the missing piece that will complete the puzzle.

Gilbert would bring an essence of speed and toughness in transition to a team that has sometimes struggled to finish in transition. John Groce has always wanted to build a team capable of being at its best in transition, but the lack of a cornerstone point guard has limited that vision. Could Gilbert change that? The coaches sure think so. But with a decision coming on Saturday (July 4th) without Gilbert ever setting foot on campus, it’s unlikely that Gilbert ever dons the orange and blue of an Illini uniform.

Xavier Simpson

Position Rank: 14
High School: Lima (OH) Lima Central
Considering: Xavier, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Cincinnati, among others

Simpson is the most college-ready of the group and has the intangibles to be a floor general from day one for a program. He’s built solid and knows his game. Simpson is a vocal leader on the floor and really sets a great example for his teammates with his defensive intensity. His quick hands and quick shifting ability on defense make him a problem for opposing guards.

Where Simpson is limited is in his explosiveness. No one questions his toughness, but he doesn’t have that explosive burst in transition that Gilbert has. He makes up for it with heady play and anticipation. His outside shot struggled throughout the spring, but Simpson was one of the most effective lead guards on the circuit at getting to the hoop and finishing through contact in the lane. Simpson nearly made his college decision in June, but he decided to postpone his announcement until he is able to go on some visits, including a likely trip to Illinois. Xavier (the school, not the player.. confusing, right?), is still safely in the lead, but with other schools getting involved, they will have to fight off surges from schools like Michigan State and Illinois.

Simpson would be the quintessential Big Ten point guard: tough as nails and founded in defense. Simpson is similar to current Illinois senior Tracy Abrams but with more developed point guard skills at this point. Still, despite his delay in announcement, Simpson may not be favoring Illinois at this point. A visit could always change his perception, but he will be tough to pluck from Ohio.

Charlie Moore

Position Rank: 27
High School: Chicago (IL) Morgan Park
Considering: Illinois, Iowa, Georgia Tech, Memphis, DePaul, others

For a guy who two years ago wasn’t much more than a streaky, undersized outside shooter, Moore has improved as much as if not more than any of the other prospects on the PG radar for the Illini. This spring, Moore displayed some of his most developed lead guard skills we’ve seen to date, and he had a great sense for when to keep and when to dish.

Moore is a dangerous on-ball defender when his opponent is similar in size to him, but he has grown to 6’0” tall now (in shoes), so he is physically turning into a more complete point guard as well. This spring, Moore averaged close to 18 and 7 on the EYBL circuit. As we’ve said before, his assist numbers are what stand out to us, because he’s always had a reputation as a prolific scorer, but he is growing into a distributor and has a better sense for the half court offense.

Schools seemed to be tentative about Moore at first, but Moore scored his first “power five” offer from Iowa a few months back, and several others, including the in-state Illini, followed suit. Though Moore will most likely have made a decision by the time his high school season is in full-swing, it will be interesting to see how he performs in the absence of the electrifying Marcus LoVett, who was a senior at Morgan Park last year.

Bryce Aiken

Position Rank: 18
High School: Newark (NJ) St. Patrick's
Considering: Illinois, Michigan, Miami, Stanford, others

As far as the eye test is concerned, Aiken looks the youngest of the group, which is surprising with “babyface assassin” Charlie Moore in the same conversation, but don’t be fooled; Aiken can play. He is deceptively productive, especially on the offensive end. He is one of the stronger outside shooters in the group, but has made a concerted effort to become more aggressive in attacking the hoop off of the dribble this spring.

Aiken is extremely intelligent, both on and off the court. He sees the plays as they develop, and is starting to become more comfortable in commanding his team when on the ball. He is doing a better job of not settling for easy outside shots, and creates open shots for himself and his teammates using the high ball screen.

Defensively, Aiken has some work to do, but that will improve with physical maturation. He isn’t at his strongest in transition, but he is comfortable in the half-court offense and doesn’t just play “playground ball”. As he becomes more physical on his drives, he will be able to finish at a higher rate and take his productivity to an even higher level.

Tony Carr

Position Rank: 7
High School: Philadelphia (PA) Roman Catholic
Considering: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh

Carr is a point guard in a shooting guard’s body. At about 6’5” tall, Carr has unique length for a lead guard and may be more on the side of a combo guard, but make no mistake, he makes plays with the ball in his hands. He wasn’t consistently ball-dominant during the EYBL circuit since he is often played alongside fellow PG Josh Sharkey, but as he found his groove, it was clear that he could take over when he really wanted to.

As a point guard for his high school team, he regularly had the ball in his hands, and utilized his playmaking ability to lead his team to a state championship. Carr has the potential to go off for a big game on any given day, but to some extent, it depends on his motor and intensity. If he can consistently keep his motor going and play aggressively on both ends of the court, he acts as the game changer he is capable of being.

Offensively, he’s a huge mismatch for opponents just because of his size and length. He can take advantage of smaller guards both on the dribble drive and by posting them up. Defensively, he needs to be a little more active, but that area of his game is something he can improve once he gets to the college level provided that the effort is there.

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