The last time four-star Milwaukee point guard Te'Jon Lucas played in a game was more than three months ago in Champaign, and he was carried off the floor with a fractured right ankle.
That was the end of a standout senior season for Lucas, who averaged 20.5 points and 7.8 assists per game on his way to being named Co-Player of the Year in the Milwaukee City Conference.
When he suits up in uniform again, the Illini hope he can make a big contribution at a crucial position on the roster next season. For now, Lucas is making steady progress with his recovery.
He got out of his walking boot in early April, and he has slowly improved from there.
Lucas went in for testing on Wednesday and he's continued to stay on track.
"I'm doing great," Lucas told IlliniInquirer.com. "They tested me and they said I can start jogging and running a little, but take my time. So it's been going well and I'm on a good track."
Lucas is just weeks away from beginning his journey in Champaign, as he will enroll in summer school and start workouts. Illinois' summer session begins on June 13, and Lucas will arrive in Champaign on June 9.
The 6-foot-1 point guard has worn his orange and blue proud up in his hometown, and he's ready to take the first step in his collegiate career next month.
"I'm very excited," Lucas said. "Ready to come in and put in hard work."
Lucas has been in constant contact with Illini head coach John Groce, who has to be equally pumped about Lucas' arrival.
"He just wants me to take my time and not rush anything," Lucas said. "He said he is excited to get me on campus. He just wants me to come in and work."
From the moment he steps on campus, Lucas is going to have a luxury that isn't provided to most in his position: Being mentored and instructed by a former All-American point guard. On Wednesday, Dee Brown joined the Illini hoops staff as Director of Player Development and Alumni Relations.
Brown was named National Player of the Year in 2005 by Sporting News, and he was the Bob Cousy Award (nation's top point guard) winner in 2006. There is no one better for Lucas to learn from than this iconic point guard.
"It's great. Not too many people can have a former player that was an All-American that can mentor them and help them on and off the court," Lucas said. "I will use this as an advantage as much as possible."
Brown is also looking forward to working with the program's point guard of the future.
"I'm going to be around him. I'm going to be in his ear," Brown said on the "Tay and J Show" on Wednesday.
Illini Inquirer publisher Jeremy Werner talked with Dee Brown about his new position on the "Tay and J Show". Hear the full interview below.
Lucas met Brown on his official visit in September, and he still remembers that conversation to this day.
"He said I can be special. I just have to put in the time and the effort," Lucas said. "He is a good person and one of the best to learn from."
With the return of Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black to the frontcourt next season, point guard play may be the biggest X-factor to Illinois' ceiling. With Tracy Abrams sidelined, the production at lead guard has been far from desirable the last two seasons.
But Lucas is expected to be a primary catalyst for positive change in the short term and the long term.
"Lucas just knows how to play," Scout.com national basketball analyst Brian Snow wrote after his commitment. "When using ball-screens, which Illinois uses about as much as anybody, Lucas is dynamic."
"For Illinois, who has desperately needed a player with Lucas' feel, this is going to be a major difference maker. While Lucas finds himself just outside of the top 100 rankings-wise, he fills a huge need on the team with the talent to get things done around him, and he could become one of the more immediate impact freshmen in the Big Ten because of it."
Everyone in Illini nation -- fans, coaches and teammates alike -- will sign up for that.