Over the next two weeks, lead basketball reporter Derek Piper is breaking down 10 of Illinois basketball's top recruits with their updated scouting report, what they have to prove this spring on the AAU circuit and where the Illini stand with them.
Today: Evan Gilyard, point guard Simeon (Ill.)
Chicago continues to churn out intriguing point guard prospects, and Simeon junior playmaker Evan Gilyard is the next in line.
Illini head coach John Groce chased Jalen Brunson, Marcus LoVett and Charlie Moore. Brunson (2015) and Moore (2016) are the last two players to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois, but the home-state program could not land them.
The Illini have had a high level of success at Simeon, though. Gilyard is coming off an impressive year, in which he was selected to the Class 4A second-team. The 5-foot-10 point guard averaged 13.5 points and more than three assists per game, while shooting 49 percent from deep.
But to this point, Gilyard does not have a high-major offer.
Gilyard is quick, electric, tough and a gamer at the point guard position. He is jet-quick in transition and he is hard to guard in the halfcourt with his shifty moves. Gilyard also possesses a smooth lefty stroke from the outside, and he utilizes floaters in the lane as well. The knock on him is that he is undersized. Gilyard is listed at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds. This presents concern about defending bigger opponents at the next level, and also being able to get his shot off at the other end.
But Gilyard is a very good on-ball defender at the high school level, and he can stay in front of any opposing point guard with his in-your-face approach. He also has the quickness and elusiveness to create space for his jumper. Gilyard has very good vision off the dribble as well.
What he has to prove this spring
Gilyard is a no-brainer for mid-major programs. Dayton and Archie Miller have been all over him, and that is a fit that would allow him to excel. But Gilyard has the opportunity to show that he deserves high-major opportunities. Simply put: He has to prove his game is bigger than his frame. Moore laid down the model for him last spring. The fellow Chi-town product looked the part during his junior season, but high-majors waited for him to show his game on the EYBL circuit before offering. That's what Moore did, and he became one of the most highly-pursued point guards in the Midwest.
Moore and Gilyard met up during the season, and Gilyard did not back down from the challenge. He got the best of the future Mr. Basketball, as Gilyard posted a game-high 24 points.
"I already knew who was the best point guard," Gilyard told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I came out here and showed it."
He'll have a big opportunity to show what he's got on the AAU circuit this spring.
How he'd fit at Illinois
The Illini have their point guard of the future coming in this fall in Te'Jon Lucas. But the four-star Milwaukee native is currently the only true point guard set to be on the roster by the 2017-18 season. Illinois has a commitment from 2017 combo guard Da'Monte Williams, but he looks more like a two-guard at this point in his development. The Illini could use Gilyard to provide depth at the point guard position. He would fit nicely in Groce's uptempo, ball-screen offense - while providing a spark off the bench.
Where Illinois stands
Gilyard has said that he wants to have high-major options. He hopes that his play with MeanStreets this spring and summer will earn him that opportunity. You can bet that top mid-major programs will be on him as well.
Illinois has done extremely well with Simeon products, as Groce and his staff have a great relationship with Wolverines head coach Robert Smith. The high-profile coach recently described the Illini programs as "a gold mine".
Illini assistant Paris Parham watched Gilyard a few times during the high school season. Parham was in attendance for Simeon's 4A semifinals matchup with Benet Academy. The Warriors fell in an upset defeat, but Gilyard was impressive with 16 points and three assists.
The Illini have expressed interest, and they will watch Gilyard during the live periods this month. If Illinois pulls the trigger on an offer, they would figure to automatically become one of the favorites.
Sizing up the competition
Dayton is the team to beat for Gilyard right now. The Flyers offered him a scholarship last July, and hosted him for an unofficial visit in October. Miller came to watch Gilyard in February, and his staff has been very active in the pursuit.
Gilyard also holds offers from Chicago State, Loyola, Southern Illinois and UIC. That list is only going to grow.