A hectic month of July for the Illini basketball staff has come to a close after having an opportunity to hit the recruiting circuit hard the last few weeks.
John Groce and his assistants sat courtside at AAU contests across the country, as they got a chance to check out their top targets and discover some new ones. It’s all about showing commitment to your marquee prospects, evaluating talent and putting the final touches on your priority list for the upcoming class.
The Illini staff once again showed they refuse to be outworked. Now, Groce will transition from a month filled with AAU basketball, coffee and red-eye flights to one focused on scheduling official visits and planning an attack to close the deal — while also improving the current team on the trip to Europe.
This is a crucial period for the future of the program. Who do they Illini hope to include in that future? Here is a look at the top five targets on the priority list, as well as five new targets on the radar.
Top Five Targets
1. Charlie Moore (2016 PG)
The Illini have made Moore feel like the top priority on the recruiting board over the last month-plus. Between the Peach Jam, Nike Global Challenge and Las Vegas Classic, Illinois did not miss a game when Moore stepped on the floor during the July evaluation periods. The Chicago native took his game to another level last month, as he showed he is worthy of the high-major hype. The Illini are in the process of scheduling an official visit for Moore to return to Champaign.
2. Xavier Simpson (2016 PG)
Simpson’s recruitment hasn’t been an easy one to gauge since he nearly announced his commitment late in the spring. But he has been adamant that he remains open heading into a slate of visits this month. Simpson is looking to visit Illinois, Iowa State and Purdue in August. The Illini have continued to push for him, and they are hoping to get him on campus during the final weekend in August.
3. Jeremiah Tilmon (2017 C)
There’s no question that Tilmon is one of the elite big men in the 2017 class. He has a great combination of size, skill and mobility with his 6’11” frame. The Illini were one of the first schools in the mix for Tilmon and he’s been a top priority ever since. The East St. Louis product has been to Champaign on multiple occasions already, and you can expect to see him back in the next few months.
4. Da’Monte Williams (2017 CG)
Being the son of an Illini great, there is a lot expected from Williams in the future. He had an impressive showing on the AAU circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire 16U squad. Williams has great upside with his skill, athleticism and ability to score at multiple levels. A bright future awaits for the Peoria Manual guard, and the Illini made sure to get in early. They hope he can be a cornerstone in a big-time 2017 class.
5. Xavier Sneed (2016 SF)
You may not have heard about him as much as some in-state prospects, but Sneed is an important target on the radar. The Illini recently made his top five and tentatively set up a visit for late August. Illinois already has some scoring wings on the roster, but Sneed excels in different aspects with his slashing ability and lockdown defense. Some consider the Illini to be the quiet favorites for him.
Five New Targets
Jayce Johnson (2016 C)
Johnson picked up an offer from the Illini a few weeks ago, and they’d love to get him on campus, if at all possible. The 7-footer from California is athletic, skilled and he has a variety of post moves to use on the block. Johnson had quite a few offers heading into July, but he elevated his game to another level and is drawing some major attention. Johnson is looking to cut down his list in the next few days, as the Illini hope they can make a late push.
Clevon Brown (2016 PF)
Another recently offered big guy, Brown is really athletic with an ability to rebound and block shots. He looks to be a stretch-four at the next level with his 6-foot-7 frame and long arms. Brown exploded onto the scene in Indianapolis during the first July evaluation period, and the Illini were closely watching. Groce would like to add as much athleticism to his frontcourt as possible, and Brown would help in a big way.
Te’Jon Lucas (2016 PG)
Lucas was one of the biggest stock-risers in July as he took his game to the next level. The Milwaukee native had mostly mid-major offers a month ago, but he has attracted Big Ten attention from the likes of Illinois, Michigan and Purdue. The Illini offered him last weekend, and he’d be a nice back-up option if they miss on Moore and Simpson. Lucas is a skilled distributor, who excels off the ball-screen.
Trent Frazier (2017 CG)
Frazier is the latest target to pick up an Illini offer. The Wellington, Fla., product was relatively unknown heading into July, but that changed in a hurry. Frazier lit it up with his dead-eye, lefty stroke. He is also elusively quick, which makes him dangerous in transition. Baylor and Illinois are the only high-major offers from Frazier at this point. The Illini have got in early on a laundry list of backcourt options in the 2017 class.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (2017 SG)
The Illini continue to look up north for Canadian talent, and they recently offered this athletic guard from Canada Elite on the Under Armour circuit. Alexander-Walker is a lanky wing with skill and a nice outside stroke. He can handle the ball as a lead guard as well. The Toronto native is in the states for prep school at St. Louis Christian Academy.