Illini head coach John Groce is looking to illuminate the future of his program in the 2017 class, and four-star point guard Trent Frazier from the "Sunshine State" has become a big part of those plans.
Groce and assistant coach Dustin Ford had an in-home visit with Frazier on April 7 in Wellington, Fla. The flashy lefty is ranked No. 81 in the 2017 Scout rankings.
"I think it was a great in-home visit," Wellington High School head coach Matt Colin said. "It really displayed the support system that Trent would have if he chose Illinois. The fact that so many people are involved with helping the players from Illinois become successful not only in basketball but as people."
Ford has traveled down to Florida on numerous occasions since the Illini offered last summer. That invested time has led to a blossoming relationship between Ford and Frazier, according to Colin.
"I think Coach Ford has done a great job recruiting him and building a relationship with him. I feel it's somebody that Trent trusts," Colin said. "I think there is a good connection between Coach Ford, Illinois basketball and Trent because of how much time Coach Ford has spent recruiting him."
"I think Trent really feels like he cares about him not only as a player but as a person."
Illinois used a variety of sells during their in-home visit. They stressed the academics and the tools that will be made available to Frazier while getting his education. They emphasized the personal bond they have formed. And they talked about his ability to shine in an offense that is designed for point guards who can score.
It is all an attractive pitch for Frazier, and the trust he has in the coaching staff is paramount.
"They did a really good job of making Trent feel at home, because he's going to be so far from his home," Colin said.
That feeling resonated in a big way with Frazier.
"It put Illinois right at the top of my list," Frazier told HoopSeen earlier this week.
Frazier has been a standout in Florida since he led his team to a Class 8A title as a sophomore, while also ranking first in the state with seven assists per game. After that, he showed off his skills on the AAU circuit - picking up high-major offers from Baylor, Florida, Illinois, Kansas State and Mississippi State.
Frazier impressed with his quickness, handles, court savvy and ability to flat out score. It didn't take long for Ford to buy into what he saw, and the Illini got a jump-start on this pursuit from special assistant Darren Hertz, who was at Florida under Billy Donovan. Hertz also went to school at Florida with Colin.
"Darren and I went to Florida together. So I mentioned him - he's my guy who I thought was pretty good," Colin said. "Then, Coach Ford saw him in Dallas last summer and he was in love with him. He's been recruiting him nonstop ever since."
The Illini got in at a great time. Frazier elevated his game to another level during his junior year, as he averaged 21 points per game and was named to the Class 8A first-team.
"Trent is a dynamic player. He's special," Colin said. "He's a lefty who can score, but he also makes the right play at the right time for you."
Collin told how Frazier caught an in-bounds pass down one against St. Petersburg (a top team in the state) with just four seconds to go. Instead of forcing up a prayer, Frazier knifed through defenders to go coast-to-coast and dished to an open teammate when the defense collapsed for the winning lay-in at the buzzer.
Frazier wasn't able to lead his team to another state title, but he did have some heroics during the tournament.
"He hit, I'd say, six buzzer-beaters at the end of quarters during the season. In the regional quarterfinals, he hit a buzzer-beater with his right hand from halfcourt. Of course, he's a lefty," Collin said. "We ended up winning that game by two."
That type of flash for the incredible is Steph Curry-esque, in a relative sense.
"His favorite player is Steph Curry. He wants to be like Steph Curry. He spends hours upon hours shooting in the gym," Colin said. "I think that's what's separated him from a lot of point guards."
"A lot of point guards are good with the ball and able to get to the rim. Well, Trent is able to do all that stuff and his handles are awesome. But what's separated him is that he can shoot it. He can flat out shoot it."
You can bet Frazier will spend even more time in the gym this spring and summer working on his game.
"He knows he can still get better - just like anybody," Colin said. "He's continuing to work on breaking down defenses and making the right reads: whether it's going to the rim or finding an open teammate. Also, he's working in the weight room."
In terms of his recruitment, Frazier could still have a blow-up awaiting him. He will play his first ever game on the EYBL circuit this weekend in Indianapolis with Nike South Beach. Frazier played last weekend in Atlanta with the Wellington Wolves.
The plan is for him to play out the AAU season and then take official visits in the fall. Colin talked about what will be important factors when it all boils down.
"He just wants to be part of a program that takes care of him, that looks after him - especially if he's going away from home. I think that's important" Collin said. "A place that's going to help him be successful academically is important to him. And obviously, the dream is hopefully to give him an opportunity to play professional basketball at some point."
Illinois has fit that bill so far, and that's why they find themselves in a prime position. Colin added that he doesn't believe Frazier is too concerned about distance from home.
"I think he's willing to go anywhere," he said. "He's not a kid that has to stay home. I think he's willing to go wherever the best fit would be."
For a program that has been starved for point guard talent, the Illini would love to land Frazier in Champaign to go along with 2016 signee Te'Jon Lucas.