The pick is in for three-star small forward Xavier Sneed, who committed to Kansas State over Illinois and Xavier on Monday afternoon.
On the surface, the Illini faithful won't like losing one of their top priorities to former Illinois coach Bruce Weber. But that is what transpired when Sneed made his announcement. Ultimately, it boiled down to the early opportunity at Kansas State—thanks largely to their gutted roster.
The Illini made Sneed a big priority in the 2016 class, even though they have plenty of bodies on the wing. Sneed was an attractive option for John Groce’s staff because of what he brings with his athleticism and defense. But the Illini didn’t have enough early playing time to guarantee to the 6-foot-5 wing.
Sneed played all summer on the St. Louis Eagles, which was one of the most talented AAU teams in the country. Five-star forward Jayson Tatum led the way and took the majority of the shots. Thus, Sneed was forced to defer often on the offensive end. With his choice to attend Kansas State, he becomes one of the go-to guys from the moment he puts on the uniform.
Illinois put in quite a bit of work in their pursuit, which included watching him on the AAU circuit and visiting him in the St. Louis area. So it is disappointing from that aspect. Furthermore, Sneed would have given the Illini a more balanced roster with his complementary skill set.
That being said, coupling a talented big man with point guard commit Te’Jon Lucas is much more crucial for the Illini in this class. La Lumiere center James Banks now becomes the unquestioned No. 1 priority for the staff. Banks was on the Illini campus last weekend for an unofficial visit. Many Illinois fans will wonder if four-star small forward Zach Norvell will emerge as a big target again. But the Chicago native looks to be moving in another direction.
The Illini will be just fine on the wing, though. Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn will solidify the starting roles for this season and next. Groce will then have a nice assortment of options for the future with Jalen Coleman-Lands, D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan. The Illini also have a great chance to land wings in the 2017 class, such as Jordan Goodwin and Javon Pickett.
The big question in the immediate future points down low in whether the Illini can bank on Banks, or should they look to throw more names in the hat? That will be the major focus for Groce and his staff in the coming weeks.