Live period preview: April 22-24

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper previews Illinois' pursuit on the AAU circuit during the final April live period.

Games to keep tabs on

MeanStreets vs. Team CP3 - Friday 5:30 p.m. CT

The Illini will be watching MeanStreets closely all weekend long, and this matchup will be an entertaining one to kick off the first slate of games. MeanStreets sports a three-headed monster of Alonzo VergeBrian Bowen and Nojel Eastern in their starting backcourt, along with Evan Gilyard off the bench. But they will have their hands full with five-star center Wendell Carter, who is the No. 3 prospect in the 2017 class. Team CP3 also has a pair of talented guards in Devontae Shuler and Lavar Batts Jr.

Howard Pulley vs. We All Can Go - Friday 5:30 p.m. CT

Howard Pulley is one of seven 3-0 EYBL teams entering this weekend, and Illinois is high on their four-star big man, Theo John. Illini assistant Paris Parham visited John up in Minnesota on Wednesday. On the other side, We All Can Go sports one of the best young point guards in the country in Tyger Campbell. The 2019 playmaker averaged 21.7 points and 5.7 assists per game during the first EYBL session. Illinois extended an offer to Campbell last July, and he visited Champaign in December for the Notre Dame game.

St. Louis Eagles vs. Spiece Indy Heat - Friday 8:30 p.m. CT

Anytime Jordan Goodwin takes the court during a live period, you can bet that Illini head coach John Groce will be sitting courtside. After winning a state title last month, Goodwin is back on the court doing big things once again. He averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game last weekend in New York. Goodwin will be met by another top performer in Spiece's Jaren Jackson Jr. The four-star Indianapolis native averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds last weekend, including a 35-point outing on Sunday.

Nike South Beach vs. CIA Bounce - Saturday 10:00 a.m. CT

After getting a warmup on Friday night, this will be a good test for Nike South Beach point guard Trent Frazier. The four-star Florida native will make his EYBL debut this weekend. Groce and Illini assistant coach Dustin Ford had an in-home visit with Frazier earlier this month, and Frazier has since said that Illinois is "right at the top of my list". He will square up against former Butler commit Howard Washington, who reclassed back to 2017 and reopened his recruitment. Washington was once on the Illini radar.

Mac Irvin Fire vs. Boo Williams - Saturday 5:00 p.m. CT

Last weekend was not exactly smooth sailing for the Mac Irvin Fire, who lost by 35 points in their opener against Team CP3. The Fire sport some talented players, including a backcourt duo of Big Ten commits Da'Monte Williams (Illinois) and Jordan Poole (Michigan). They also have Stevenson forward Justin Smith, who is quickly raising his stock and just picked up an offer from Villanova. The Illini want to see more from Williams, who shot just 28.6 percent from the field last weekend. They'll have a close eye on Smith and Christian Negron as well. Boo Williams will challenge Williams and Poole with a skilled backcourt of Matt Coleman and Keldon Johnson.

D1 Minnesota vs. Team Fast - Saturday 5:40 p.m. CT

The Illini have taken a big interest in the 2017 talent in Minnesota, and they will be watching this squad often on the adidas circuit. D1 Minnesota features three-star point guard McKinley Wright, who plays with John at Champlin Park and picked up an offer last June. Wright averaged 12.5 points and five assists last weekend in Dallas. Illinois is even more intrigued by 6-foot-9 power forward Jericho Sims, who picked up an Illini offer on Monday. Sims is a superior athlete, and he averaged 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds last weekend. They will meet up with Team Fast in this one, who will enter Atlanta leading their division with a 4-0 record.

Three Storylines

1. Jordan Goodwin watch

While the Illini will watch plenty of targets this weekend, there's no question that Goodwin will be the most magnetizing - and the most important for the potential of the 2017 class. Illinois has shown Goodwin as much love as they possibly can to this point, but they have to keep plugging away. Goodwin has a great relationship with the Illini staff, as well as 2017 commit Javon Pickett. But he wants to play things out and garner the attention that he deserves. He shouldn't have any problem doing that.

It will be interesting to see which coaches sit courtside to check out Goodwin this weekend, especially since it will be the last time they can see him in action until July. Goodwin's recruitment has been relatively quiet recently - outside of an offer from Texas A&M on Thursday. Goodwin told that no coaches were in to see him this week. Although, that is due to coaches saving off-campus contacts for this evaluation period - at least in Illinois' case.

2. Further the frontcourt chase

One of the biggest goals for the Illinois staff heading into the April evaluation periods was to extend their reach with 2017 frontcourt prospects. The Illini have put in more work than anyone with five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon. They got in early with top-40 big man Derek Culver. But those are home-run swings, which Illinois fans know don't come easy. Illinois has prioritized John and Negron as well. But they needed some more options, and they added one by offering Sims.

Parham visited Sims on Wednesday as well. The Illini also have their eyes on another big man in 6-foot-9 power forward Mayan Kiir from Victory Rock Prep (Fla.). Ford visited Kiir on Wednesday down in Florida, and he will be watching him closely this weekend in Atlanta on the adidas circuit. Kiir finished the first weekend ranked fifth in rebounds (nine per game) and tied for second in blocks (2.3 per game)

3. Priority list separation

The Illini are in a unique position with a handful of scholarships left to give in 2017 and so many possibilities on their recruiting board. The top line isn't going to change much at all. But there is a lot of opportunity for movement elsewhere on the list. This weekend will close out evaluations for the next two months, and staffs will head back to campus to reorganize their chart and formulate a pursuit going forward. Where each player stands will depend on what they showed on the court, how they fit, whether they address a need, and their overall 'gettability'.

Who should be a bigger priority: Smith or Eastern? Negron or Sims? Has anyone's stock gone down? Who is our backup plan if we don't get 'X'? Who do we want to see again in July before offering? This weekend will be the last exposure before these questions are discussed in great detail.

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