Chicago is nationally recognized as one of the top hotbeds for hoops talent, but the Illini have made sure to extend their reach even further north to Milwaukee - and for good reason.
Illinois secured a commitment from four-star point guard Te'Jon Lucas in the 2016 class. Now, they are locked on another Milwaukee product in four-star 2017 swingman Terrence Lewis. Lucas and Lewis shared Co-Player of the Year honors in the Milwaukee City Conference this past season.
On Wednesday, John Groce and his staff hosted Lewis for an unofficial visit on the last day of the recruiting period.
"We started out talking about the academics and then we focused on basketball. Basically, just how to get my game better and stuff like that," Lewis said. "At the end, they had me thinking about what it'd be like to go there. So that gave me consideration about going there a little bit."
Illini assistant Paris Parham has spearheaded the recruiting effort in Milwaukee. He developed a very good relationship with Lucas, and Lewis said he got a good impression of the staff as well.
"The coaching staff is very trustworthy," Lewis said. "They make sure that the team is like a family. Also, they make sure that everything is good with your academic situation."
Lewis was joined by his parents, who were also impressed by what Illinois had to offer.
"They thought the school was very good also," Lewis said. "At the end, the coaches met with them, and they're interested in me maybe going there."
Lewis will be a high-caliber get wherever he ends up. The 6-foot-6 wing has loads of upside with his length, athleticism and pure outside stroke. Lewis averaged 21.9 points and 10 rebounds per game during the regular season at Milwaukee Riverside.
"I can play above the rim. I go to the rack easy," Lewis said. "I can handle the ball a little bit and also create my own shots. I'm also a good passer that creates for my teammates."
Lewis said Illinois is especially intrigued by his versatility and ability to play uptempo. He put that on display this past season, and he received big-time recognition for his overall talent.
But Lewis said he wasn't focused on the accolades.
"I didn't go into it trying to be Player of the Year. Just tried to get my game better and keep on working," he said. "I was very blessed to get that opportunity to be named Co-Player of the Year and keep on working."
Lewis also talked about Lucas, who was averaging 20.5 points and 7.8 assists per game before fracturing his ankle.
"Before the injury, he was going hard out there," Lewis said. "He was being aggressive and made things happen for his team on the floor."
The Illini signee got a close look at Lewis' game as well.
"He has a very good skill set," Lucas said. "We are good friends."
Illinois would love to piece those players together in the orange and blue. But the competition is growing for Lewis, who will surely attract even more attention on the EYBL circuit.
For now, Lewis has high-major offers from Auburn, Illinois and Iowa State. He is receiving interest from many others as well. Lewis is looking to take more visits in the near future.
"During the spring and summer, I'm planning on taking visits to Texas Tech, Xavier, Iowa State, Illinois again, and some more schools," he said.
Lewis will kick things off on the AAU circuit this weekend with Playground Elite at the NY2LA Swish 'n Dish event in the Milwaukee area. Coaches will get a look at him when the first live period begins on April 15.
Illinois will be one of many programs tracking Lewis. It was a good move for the Illini to get him on campus early and show him the opportunity that lies ahead.
"It's a blessing to go there and know that I have an opportunity to play on that floor in a Big Ten environment," Lewis said. "So I feel very blessed right now."