Illini fans have been dreaming of this day since John Groce extended an offer to Peoria Manual guard Da'Monte Williams last April.
The son of former Illini great Frank Williams has been tabbed as a must-get in the all-important 2017 class for the program. On Sunday afternoon, Da'Monte and his parents toured the campus and met with the staff.
Just a few hours later, Da'Monte Williams pledged his commitment to the Illini program - joining Belleville East wing Javon Pickett in the class.
"I just felt like it was the place for me to be. It feels like home," Da'Monte Williams told Illini Inquirer. "I know they will take good care of me just like my mom and dad."
That bond and trust with the coaching staff was a huge factor in this decision. Da'Monte Williams talked about the moment when he told Groce and the staff that he was on board.
"It was just a lot of love," he said. "Everybody was excited."
Da'Monte Williams will one day put on the same jersey as his dad. He talked about that feeling.
"It makes me feel good putting on the jersey that my dad played in," he said. "At the same time, I'm just looking forward to going out there and playing my game. It's all pretty cool."
With the commitment, the Illini are getting the No. 45 player in the 2017 class (per the Scout rankings). Da'Monte Williams is a combo guard who possesses athleticism, an ability to score off dribble or with a smooth stroke, and he can facilitate as well.
Scout.com national basketball analyst Brian Snow gave his thoughts about the addition.
"Illinois has the guard they absolutely needed to get in 2017. Williams is one of the better combo guards in the Midwest, and is someone who has a high upside," Snow said. "He brings a combination of size, athleticism and skill that is much-needed in the program, and he helps set the tone for what could be an excellent in-state haul for the Illini in 2017."
That 2017 class is the key to the future for Groce and his staff. Da'Monte Williams is a crucial addition, and they hope it is one that unlocks many other possibilities with in-state products.
Da'Monte Williams said he won't waste any time talking to Illini targets Jeremiah Tilmon and Jordan Goodwin.
"It's been on my mind a lot. Me and Javon will definitely set it off," he said. "Adding Jordan Goodwin and Jeremiah Tilmon to that would be huge."
Tilmon talked to Illini Inquirer about Da'Monte Williams' commitment and what it means for Illinois' pursuit of him.
"I feel like it helps a lot. People are going to be expecting me to commit too," Tilmon laughed. "He's a real good player. I like his game. He's a dog on the court. I feel like him playing at Illinois is going to help them with me a lot."
Pickett added his thoughts on the commitment as well.
"I think that it's great. Glad someone else came along," he said. "We are the start and we will bring in other good players."
It has been a dark and gloomy season for Illini coaches, players and fans alike. But Sunday was a much-needed ray of sunshine now and for the future.
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