Illinois is expected to have at least five (possibly more) scholarships available in the Class of 2017.
Illini coach John Groce is shooting for the stars in the class, which is loaded with high-major prospects in the state of Illinois. So it's no surprise that several Illini targets cracked the Scout Hoops' experts updated 2017 Scout 100 rankings.
Illini Inquirer lead basketball reporter Derek Piper breaks down the Illini Class of 2017 recruiting targets on and off the Scout 100.
Illini targets in Scout 100
11. Kris Wilkes
Wilkes has solidified himself as one of the elite players in the class with his combination of athleticism and versatility on the wing. He'll likely have his choice of any destination in the country when it's all said and done. The Illini were able to get Wilkes on campus over the summer, but the Indianapolis native isn't a likely add.
17. Jeremiah Tilmon
The summer circuit isn't always the ideal environment for a big man to flourish, and we saw that with Tilmon on the St. Louis Eagles. That being said, there is a lot to like about his skill, mobility and developing post game. Tilmon would be a blockbuster get for the Illini, and they have done an outstanding job of recruiting him to this point. The key to landing him is to improve the on-court results and put attractive pieces around him in the class.
30. Paul Scruggs
You know what you're getting with Scruggs, who may be the most physically-imposing lead guard in the class. He is nearly impossible to contain one-on-one off the bounce, as he can get to the basket and finish as well as any. But Scruggs still has a ways to go with his outside jumper, which is the missing piece to becoming a complete player. Illinois has a great sell to Scruggs if they don't find the point guard of the future in the 2016 class, but the competition is stiff in this one as well.
33. Derek Culver
If you're looking for an athletic big who can run the floor, block shots and finish with authority, Culver is your guy. He is a prime target in the Midwest, and a handful of Big Ten programs have been firmly in the mix. Culver could very well be 6-foot-10 when he begins playing college basketball. The Illini offered him a scholarship in May, and they will look to get him on campus in the near future.
37. Da'Monte Williams
Williams took a huge step forward with his game on the AAU circuit, as he proved to be one of the top lead guards in the Midwest. He can score at a high level with a pure outside stroke and ability to get to the basket. Williams has very good athleticism and court vision as well. The biggest focus for him going forward is to be in attack mode from start to finish. Illinois was the landing spot for his father, Frank Williams, and the Illini have great odds to continue the trend.
50. Nojel Eastern
It says a lot about a player to miss nearly the entire AAU season and still be considered a top-50 prospect. That is where Eastern sits after a dislocated ankle held him out of action. The 6-foot-4 combo guard has an exceptional basketball IQ and he can make plays in a variety of ways. Eastern can play the point or on the wing, but simply put, good things happen when the ball is in his hands. The Illini got in early with an offer in July 2014, and they've continued to stay in close contact during Eastern's rehab process.
55. Jaren Jackson
Jackson is another prospect who oozes with versatility and potential. At 6-foot-9, he is very comfortable with his back to the basket, and he can extend his game with a smooth mid-range jumper as well. Jackson is also a high-level defender with his long arms and ability to block shots. Illinois is one of many Big Ten programs who have offered the Indianapolis product. Jackson took an unofficial visit to Champaign in June, and he said he really enjoyed the coaching staff.
72. Jordan Goodwin
The idea of position-less basketball has been a key discussion point in the sport, and Goodwin fits right into the mix. At 6-foot-3, Goodwin has the height of a shooting guard but he is built like a bruising forward. Regardless of the label you choose, the Belleville Althoff standout can flat out play at both ends of the floor. Goodwin has Illini fans giddy about the prospects of him playing in Champaign. He visited the campus twice this summer, and he's called Illinois his leader on multiple occasions. He could be the first domino for the Illini in this crucial class.
80. Theo John
You can never have too much athleticism in the frontcourt, and John certainly brings that to the court in a big way. The 6-foot-8 power forward knows how to rock the rim and pull in rebounds. He also has a great frame to pack on muscle and become an imposing big at the next level. The key for John is to continue to develop other aspects of his offensive game. The Illini extended an offer to the Minnesota native in June, and they think he could be a very nice piece in this class.
91. Jordan Poole
The rankings experts do a fantastic job, but they may be sleeping on this sharpshooting guard. Poole didn't play much at the 17U level during the spring, but when he got his chance in July, he looked like one of the top 50 players in 2017. "Splash" lived up to the nickname with his dead-eye stroke. Poole is a natural scorer, who can climb out of bed and get buckets. He also sports a smooth handle and outstanding court vision. Illinois offered Poole back in June, and he's had quite a few others roll in since his big July showing. While the rankings tell a different story, the Illini have him as high as any guard on the 2017 priority list.
Illini targets outside Scout 100
If the rankings came out before the AAU season, Smith likely would have been in the top 100. But he struggled to find any consistency on the 17U circuit this summer. Smith looked uncomfortable and out of his league more often than not. He may be better from it in the long run, though. There is still a lot to like about his potential at the offensive end. The Illini had Smith on campus for their team camp and he took an unofficial visit the following weekend.
Pickett was an unknown to many prior to his explosive showing in the middle of July. Entering the month, he didn't have one Division I offer to his name. But that has changed after the athletic wing showed off his skill, motor and ability to score off the dribble. The Illini offered Pickett a scholarship last month during his unofficial visit to campus. He plays on the same high school and AAU team as current Illini standout Malcolm Hill did leading up to his college career.
As an undersized four with a supreme athleticism and motor, Negron is very similar to fellow Chicago product Ed Morrow. At 6-foot-6, he plays bigger than his height, thanks to his long arms and leaping ability. Negron doesn't appear to be far off from being a top-100 prospect, especially if he establishes a solid mid-range game. The Illini have made him a big priority since extending an offer back in April, and they'd like to get him on campus soon.
Verge has as much potential as any guard in the state of Illinois. He is an electric talent, who can score in bunches and push the pace with the ball in his hands. Verge was a big-time contributor for the St. Louis Eagles in bracket play of the Peach Jam, as he provided a spark off the bench. There are questions to be answered by Verge away from the basketball court, but if he's able to do that, he'll be a prime target for the Illini and others.
Point guards are a delicacy in the world of recruiting, and Wright is a solid option at the position. The 6-foot playmaker is smooth with the ball, can shoot from the outside and he has great court vision. Wright won't be a top target for high-major programs, but he can add depth to the backcourt and bring some positives to your team. The Illini were the first program to offer Wright in late June, and he'll be a backup option if they miss on others.