During the next month, lliniInquirer.com lead basketball reporter Derek Piper will break down more than a dozen Illinois basketball targets, what he learned from watching them on the summer AAU circuit and where Illinois stands with them in their respective recruitments.
Today - Javon Pickett, guard/forward Belleville (Ill.) East
The Illinois basketball offer list for the all-important 2017 class added a new member on Tuesday, as Belleville East small forward Javon Pickett picked up an offer during his unofficial visit to Champaign.
While the natural instinct is to look north for talent, the St. Louis and Metro-East areas are loaded with future high-major players. The Illini entered the month with offers extended to a trio of prospects in the region: 2017 center Jeremiah Tilmon, 2017 wing Jordan Goodwin and 2018 power forward Carte'Are Gordon.
Pickett and 2018 point guard Courtney Ramey have joined the group this week. John Groce and his staff are doing their best to capitalize on the opportunity. This is all just the beginning for Pickett, who is starting to come into his own on the floor.
It was a great move for the Illini to pull the trigger and be the first high-major offer on his list. As with other 2017 in-state products, they hope an early foundation can stack up to be something special when it’s all said and done.
What We Saw In July
Pickett entered the month of July as a relatively unknown on the recruiting scene. Just three weeks ago, he didn’t have a Division I offer. But everything changed once Pickett put his abilities on display at the NY2LA Summer Jam during an evaluation period. The 6-foot-4 wing was highly impressive with his athleticism, ball skills and ability to score off the bounce.
“That was the start of it,” SW Illinois Jets director Andre McMurray said. “He’s got a knack for the ball. He can get offensive boards and finish. He’s got a way of finishing at awkward angles and tough shots. He’s got a nice fadeaway and face-up game. He can go left. He can go right. He can shoot it from the three. He did all of those things well up in Wisconsin.”
McMurray saw current Illini starter Malcolm Hill grow in his AAU program, and he’s starting to see the same transition with Pickett’s game.
“I got to see Malcolm in the same situation -- pretty much the same way,” McMurray said. “Javon is extremely talented with his length and his athleticism. He can shoot it, he can guard and he can rebound. But what really, really separated him is his motor. Javon’s motor went to another level. I’ve never seen a kid play that hard from start to finish, every possession.”
Ultimately, what those on the circuit saw from Pickett is a young player who is just starting to grasp his potential.
“At this stage, I’d say that Malcolm had a better basketball IQ. But with Javon, there’s something different that’s there,” McMurray said. “I’m not saying he’s better than Malcolm. But once he picks it up defensively, he’s going to be a load. Things are really going to pick up for him with the interest and schools offering him.”
How He’d Fit In Illini Class
You can never have too much athleticism and versatility on your roster, and Pickett has that in bunches. It’s great to have players who can attack off the dribble and score in a variety of ways. Pickett also has quite a bit of room to grow with his frame. He has the potential to be a nice complementary piece in the 2017 class. Pickett did a great job of attracting Illinois attention last month. Between now and next summer, it will be about positioning himself on a priority list that is filled with candidates.
Where Do The Illini Stand
Pickett’s offer from the Illini is hot off the presses, so it will take time for him to soak it in and develop a relationship with the staff. That being said, Illinois has to feel good about a number of things at this point. For starters, they are Pickett’s first high-major offer. In addition, the connection with Hill and the Jets program is one that can pay dividends.
“His mom and his dad really like Illinois," McMurray said. "Malcolm is there and they went to the same high school. I think Illinois is in a really good position with him. It’s going to be fun to see how it all plays out. But with Coach Groce and U of I having Malcom there, I think they’re definitely going to be in a good position.”
McMurray said that Hill stays close with the program. His father, Malcolm Hill Sr., coaches the 15U team. That relationship and Hill’s success story from the same roots will be very attractive sells to Pickett.
“His dad is my 15U coach," McMurray said. "So it doesn’t get any closer than that. We have practices when he’s in town and he comes and talks to the kids. To see him doing well, it’s great for the kids to see him and have Malcolm around. He’s a great kid.”
Sizing Up The Competition
The offer list is growing for Pickett and more teams will enter the fray as time goes on. In addition to Illinois, he has offers from Drake, Illinois State, Loyola, Missouri State, SIUE, Tennessee State and UIC. Pickett is also receiving interest from St. Louis and Xavier, while Iowa and Michigan got a look at him last month as well. Illini fans aren’t going to sweat the current landscape but things will heat up when more eyes get a glimpse.