Lucas, Illini relationship 'getting stronger'

2016 point guard Te'Jon Lucas impressed by Illinois pitch

Te'Jon Lucas is still a relatively new face on the Illinois basketball radar after receiving an offer last month. Illini head coach John Groce desperately needs a point guard in the upcoming class, and Lucas is a legitimate option to fill that spot. Illinois is still new to Lucas as well, which is why the staff made sure to be his first visit of the month.

“It was a good experience," Lucas said. "Got to see the arena and I got to watch them practice because they’re about to leave for the tour. I got to see where I would stay. Got to meet the academic advisors. It was fun. They’re good guys. It was bigger than I thought it was and they’re very supportive. It was a great visit.”

A big focus for the Illini was making Lucas more familiar with the program and getting a chance to interact face-to-face.

“I feel like we built a better relationship,” Lucas said. “It’s getting stronger. We got to sit down and talk. My parents came as well, and they made them feel comfortable if I choose Illinois. They’re comfortable with me coming there.”

The pitch to Lucas was just like any other top-notch point guard target. While they weren’t pushing for a commitment, the Illini let him know what could possibly be in store.

“They said when I get there, I’d be able to produce major minutes,” Lucas said. “Obviously, it wouldn’t be handed to me and I’d have to work for it. But basically, they would give me the job.”

The strategy of Illinois’ pursuit will depend heavily on the happenings with top point guard targets Charlie Moore and Xavier Simpson. But they will have to balance making Lucas a priority and an insurance plan if things fall through elsewhere. The Illini told Lucas that they want him to come back for an official visit in the coming months.

He already has official visits scheduled to Purdue (Aug. 28), USC (Sept. 4) and Old Dominion (Sept. 11). Lucas could take two more officials as well. He is currently undecided on those plans, but the Illini are hopeful they will be in the mix.

“They said they want me to come back for an official visit," Lucas said. "I’ll be sitting down and reflecting on it to see what will be my next step. I will probably announce those pretty soon. I should have those down in the next couple weeks.”

Ultimately, Lucas is looking for a destination where he will have a chance to play right away. That is a big part of finding the right fit at the next level.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity," Lucas said. "I don’t want to come in and sit the bench. I’m looking to really be a priority. I’m looking at the style of play. I want to go somewhere that I would be able to fit in and do what I do best. Also, somewhere that I have a good relationship with the coaches.”

Lucas has seen a big transformation in the recruiting process and his game over the last few months. After flying under the radar heading into the spring, Lucas earned a spot at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June. From there, he became one to watch with the way he performed during the July evaluation periods.

Lucas was particularly impressive at the NY2LA Summer Jam near his hometown of Milwaukee. In one game, he had 14 assists and just one turnover. Lucas was undoubtedly one of the best distributors on the circuit last month.

“Last year, I focused a lot on scoring. Then this year, the coaches wanted to see if I could be a true point guard and really see the floor,” he said. “So I’ve focused on passing—being a pass-first point guard and being able to score when needed. I was able to do a lot of good things.”

Now that his trip to Illinois is over, Lucas is going back up north to work on his game. He said he won’t use his recruitment as an excuse to relax. Lucas has a break in his visit slate, and he detailed his plans going forward.

“Basically, things are starting to die down,” he said. “I’m going to get back to working out and then take some more visits. After that, I’ll sit down with my family. I don’t want to make a life-changing decision fast. So I’ll just sit down and think about it.”

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