Illinois has a point guard in the Class of 2016. Te'Jon Lucas gives Illinois a much-needed Big Ten talent and upgrade at college basketball's most important position -- a position that has crushed the Illini the last two seasons.
Illinois should not recruit over Lucas, who gave them his pledge after so many other premier point guards had said no. But Illinois should recruit to complement Lucas.
Charlie Moore would help both Lucas and Illinois.
*What's the latest on Illini's pursuit of 2017 prospects? Check out latest Trending Meter*
The Memphis recruit likely will re-open his recruitment with news that Georgia Tech will take Josh Pastner's massive buyout off of Memphis' hands. The Tigers -- a program with huge resources and a great path to NCAA Tournaments in the AAC -- likely will upgrade and try to keep Moore.
The demand for a four-star point guard greatly outweighs the supply in April, so a flock of teams surely will flood Chicago -- Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Northwestern, Wisconsin, DePaul, Miami, Georgia Tech and SMU already have shown interest -- for a chance at the state's top 2016 prospect, the state's 2016 Mr. Basketball and the country's 65th-ranked prospect.
Illinois should be one of those teams.
The Illini were one of the top players for Moore when he slowed down his recruitment last fall due to his father's health issues. Many thought the Illini were close to a commitment, but that commitment never came. Despite past and recent criticism for not waiting on Moore, Illinois correctly chose to lock up Lucas -- a Big Ten-quality point guard they so sorely needed -- rather than waiting on the chance for Moore. Thus ended their mutual interest.
Lucas likely wouldn't like the idea of another point guard, and Illinois shouldn't recruit Moore without talking to Lucas. If he's uncomfortable with it, then Illinois shouldn't consider it because Lucas is their guy. If Moore doesn't want to jump in right away, Illinois probably shouldn't go through another prolonged public fight for a prospect they prioritized for most of 2015 just to end up empty-handed again.
But neither Lucas nor Moore should be turned off by the presence of other. There is room for more than one point guard on the floor. Just look at three of the last four national champions.
Ryan Arcidiacano and Jalen Brunson co-existed just fine for 2016 champion Villanova.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright made each other -- and their team -- better at UConn, the 2014 champion.
Diminutive duo Russ Smith and Peyton Siva both shared the ball enough to individually and collectively succeed at Louisville, the 2013 champion.
Lucas (6-foot-2) is a driver, a disher, a solid all-around prospect who makes those around him better.
Moore (5-foot-9) simply is a shot-maker. He's a threat to shoot it and score anywhere on the floor.
They can make each other better, especially in John Groce's ball-screen offense. Sure, there would be questions about whether they can defend together. But it can work with a long frontcourt and a rim protector.
Will Illinois have an open scholarship? Likely. The NCAA hasn't yet ruled on senior center Mike Thorne's long-shot application for a hardship waiver. Three players await resolution to alleged violent crimes. Transfer season is upon us. These matters always seem to have a way of working out.
Conventional wisdom says that Moore won't go to a program with a point guard already signed in his class. Conventional wisdom says he won't land at Illinois. Conventional wisdom says Chicago recruitments are always a bit complicated and that outside of Simeon, the city hasn't been kind to Illinois.
But Moore really, really liked Illinois. The Illini really, really liked Moore but simply couldn't say no to a good player (Lucas) who fit a huge need.
But Moore and Illinois can still be a great marriage. Programs and prospects shouldn't be so conservatively committed to monogamous point-guard relationships when so many recent champions show that a pair of potent point guards increases the chances of individual and team success.
The Illini would have to do a lot of selling -- to Moore, to Lucas and especially to all those around them -- to make it happen. The odds seem low.
But should the sell require so much persuasion? Just look at most of the recent teams cutting down the nets.null