Illini big man target Theo John making June plans

Champlin Park (Minn.) big man Theo John is making plans for this month. He talks about potential visits, his play on the AAU circuit and areas of improvement.

Four-star center Theo John is a priority recruit on the Illini radar in the 2017 class, and John Groce and Paris Parham are working to seize an opportunity to bring him to Champaign this month.

John has been a focal point of Illinois' frontcourt pursuit. Groce and Parham watched him frequently during the April evaluation periods, and they also went up to Champlin, Minn. that month to visit with John and his parents.

"It was really good. My mom and dad got off work early so they were able to come talk with them as well," John told IlliniInquirer.com. "They're making me feel like a huge priority."

The Illini have opportunity to sell down low, and that is very intriguing to John.

"They've been talking about how they're going to have a lot of seniors this year, and really the opportunity is there and it's huge for me," he said. "I want to go to a place that is going to make me better and give me a chance to show the type of player I am."

Illinois seems to fit that profile.

"I like what I'm hearing," John said.

He took an official visit to Oklahoma in April. Last weekend, John was at the Pangos All-American Camp just north of Los Angeles. He took an unofficial visit to UCLA on Monday with his AAU teammate Gary Trent Jr.

"The UCLA visit was nice," John said. "Me and (Gary) got to stay another night after Pangos to go down on campus and kind of just see what UCLA is about."

Two other programs have been working hard to get John on campus this month: Illinois and Marquette. John told IlliniInquirer.com that dates have been in the works with the Illini, and that his next trips would probably be officials.

"My mom has been working on some dates with them," John said. "We're both pretty busy so we're just trying to figure out a good time."

It's possible that John could make a decision by the end of the month. He talked about his focus for June.

"We'll see. I'll be thinking about college and stuff," John said. "I'm not sure about decisions and when they'll be yet."

Other programs are trying to make John's decision tougher, and get him to take more time to think about his choice. Florida and Purdue have come on with offers this week.

John averaged 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on the EYBL circuit this spring. He is the starting center for one of the best teams in the league, as Howard Pulley finished the regular season with a 14-2 record.

John did not put up numbers that are especially flashy. But he finishes around the rim, rebounds the ball and he defends at a high level in the paint. John had at least two blocks in 10 of his last 11 EYBL games, and he blocked four shots in the regular season finale against Pro Skills.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," John said. "That's a big focus for me. I try to shut my guy down."

John also talked about his overall game and his team's performance this spring.

"Personally, I feel that I could have played a lot better. But as a team, we've played really well," he said. "Offensively, I've been able to take advantage of my teammates setting me up. We've got great shooters, and that makes it easier for me to score. We really just feed off each other."

John would like to progress even more at the offensive end. He has untapped potential at that end of the floor. He'll be in the gym working on that this month.

"I just want to work on being more patient in the post," he said. "I have a lot of moves but I just need to settle down and not rush it. I'll probably just work on getting in a lot of repetition so I can translate to the court."

Taking that next step offensively would undoubtedly make John a top-100 talent in the class. He is just on the outside right now. But rankings aside, John has plenty of teams that love what he brings already -- and who he can become.

John already has a high-major frame with a strong build and broad shoulders. He's athletic and runs the floor as well. But his strength allows him to battle down in the paint, and that is very attractive to potential suitors.

"I'm trying to get bigger and lift every day, because I am a little undersized for my position," John said. "But I try to be very physical and very strong down in the post."

Getting John in Champaign for an official visit this month would be a huge development for the Illini.


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