Read Derek Piper's position primer on Xavier Simpson here.
Three-star small forward Xavier Sneed has become an important target for the Illini in the 2016 class, and he'll take an up-close look at the program during his official visit this weekend.
Sneed doesn't have the same headlining appeal as fellow visitor Xavier Simpson, but John Groce and his staff would be ecstatic to land him. It appears they are in a favorable position to do so when it's all said and done. For now, the Illini are the only solidified stop on Sneed's official visit tour.
Illinois will be presented with an outstanding opportunity when Simpson and Sneed arrive on campus. The Illini hope to show what they have to offer is worthy of turning opportunity into reality. They might be well on their way with Sneed.
Going Illinois’ Way
The Illini have been surging with Sneed during the final lap of his recruitment. Assistant coach Jamall Walker has built a great rapport with Sneed and his family, and he has pursued the athletic wing like a must-get target. While Illinois has no shortage of options on the perimeter, Sneed has been sold on being a big part of the future plans with his valuable collection of skills. The Illini have guys who can shoot it from the outside, but they have a need for an athletic slasher and lockdown defender at the three spot.
It’s important to find complementary pieces that bring different things to the table. Sneed likes the prestige and the potential of the program. He is also attracted by the academic pedigree, opportunity to play and connection to the coaching staff. The Illini have worked hard for a strong foundation in this recruitment, and they earned the first crack at Sneed during his official visit tour. It's also a huge positive that they are his only visit set in stone right now. That’s the best scenario you can hope for at this stage of the game.
Going Against Illinois
It remains to be seen who has the best odds to challenge the Illini in this chase. Kansas State and Xavier are the two programs in the mix that offered Sneed before Groce pulled the trigger. The Wildcats were originally scheduled for an official visit with Sneed next weekend, but he has since declared his schedule up in the air. Creighton and Wichita State are also on his top-five list, which was released late in July.
The Illini can match almost any sell with the exception of recent NCAA tournament success. That being said, recruits often care more about what will happen instead of what has happened with their list of programs. Illinois figures to stack up as well as any under that consideration.
Confidence In A Commitment
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest: Seven (7) — The Illini aren’t guaranteed to close the deal this weekend, but there’s a high level of confidence that they are in the driver’s seat. The dominoes have stacked up in their favor to this point and their official visit pitch has the potential to apply the finishing touches. Sneed may decide to compare the opportunity and experience at a few other campuses. His conclusions from his trip to Champaign will play a key role in what happens next.
Sneed originally said that he’d like to take official visits to all five of his final schools, which is standard procedure. But oftentimes, recruits find what they’re looking for before the process concludes. Sneed has admitted that the length of his recruitment has worn on him, and he’s ready to make up his mind sooner rather than later. Commitments on visits are highly possible and they usually happen without a publicized expectation.
The Illini jointly hosted a pair of out-of-state targets last year in Jalen Coleman-Lands and Elijah Thomas. It wasn’t an easy task to balance the two, but Groce and his staff were able to capitalize by securing a commitment from Coleman-Lands the following week. They will hope for a similar result with Sneed, even if he takes a few weeks longer to figure things out.
Sneed wouldn’t be a flashy addition to the 2016 class, but he’d be one that packs a punch. The Illini have four spots to fill for the 2016-17 season, and kicking off the class with Sneed would be a great start. He offers a different set of skills than what Illinois has at the position. Sneed won’t awe you with his offensive numbers, and he doesn’t have to in order to be a crucial piece. He would help the Illini become more athletic, more hard-nosed and more balanced across the board.