Piper's take: 2017 class list breakdown

A number of Illini hoops targets have cut their lists recently. Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper provides his breakdown.

Jordan Goodwin


Announced list

Top 7 (no order): Illinois, Alabama, Butler, Creighton, Missouri, Northwestern and St. Louis.

Real list

Illinois, SLU and Northwestern

Where Illini stand

Team to beat. Goodwin called the Illini his leader last summer after a visit to Champaign. Illinois has made him their unquestioned top priority on the recruiting board. John Groce has been to more of his games than any other head coach. He was the only one there to give Goodwin a big hug and exchange words after Belleville Althoff won the state title this past spring.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1689558-illini-make-jordan-g... Goodwin enjoys the attention and the love. Illinois is giving it to him. Goodwin wants a strong bond with the coaching staff. Groce and Jamall Walker have put in that work. Goodwin wants to play big minutes early. The Illini are losing fellow Belleville product Malcolm Hill after this season, and while there are other wings on the roster, Illinois has sold the obvious -- we'll have a harder time keeping you off the court than on.

Most importantly, Goodwin wants to win. That's what drives him at his core. The Illini can put the best collection of talent around him, and that would include his best friend and five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon. If Tilmon stays two years (likely), Illinois can be a Big Ten title contender in 2018-19. Tilmon has already voiced his confidence in Goodwin coming with him.

SLU is coming on with a very strong push, though. The campus is less than 30 minutes from Goodwin's house. They can put Goodwin in his own spotlight right away. Travis Ford is doing all that he can. He hired former St. Louis Eagles head coach Corey Tate away from Mizzou to be an assistant. He's gone to Twitter to retweet some posts about Goodwin. No big deal on the tweets (beyond expressing confidence), but he did beat Groce and this staff for Jawun Evans back in the 2015 class.

Now, Ford has quickly become tied in where it counts in this recruitment. Goodwin has an established relationship with Tate. Goodwin has been advised throughout the process by a member of the St. Louis Eagles staff, and that adds to the connection. In addition, Ford is selling Goodwin on being his version of Marcus Smart at SLU -- a strong guard who is skilled and will have the ball in his hands on every possession. Thus, leading to his showcase to the NBA. Of course, Goodwin would be trading that for the winning potential at Illinois. And that's not to say he can't showcase his talent in the Big Ten.

To put it simply: Ford isn't making things easy for Illinois. That will continue to be the case. Northwestern has put in quite a bit of work as well, but they seem solidly positioned at third right now. The Illini have been the team to beat the whole way. They make too much sense for that designation to change, although this race is far from over.

Trent Frazier


Announced list

Top 8 (no order): Illinois, Georgia, Kansas State, Memphis, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, SMU, and VCU.

Real list

Illinois and Georgia

Where Illini stand

Leader. Frazier has said it himself. Over and over again. Illinois was putting in work with the four-star point guard when others on this list didn't even have him on their radar. Assistant coach Dustin Ford laid the groundwork, and Groce has come on to make this an all-in effort.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1688231-trent-frazier-locks-... The Illini have their official visit locked in for Aug. 19-21. It's been said for quite some time, but the commit watch will begin as soon as Frazier and his family step on campus. Frazier told IlliniInquirer.com that he has set up an official visit to Georgia the next weekend. But the Bulldogs extended an offer just one week ago. They aren't exactly entrenched in this one.

Illinois is going to come on strong with that first visit. Frazier is a perfect fit to the offense. There is opportunity there for the taking. He can play on a team filled with talent. He can play for coaches that have been loyal to him and have earned his trust. That is crucial here.

The students will be back on campus during Frazier's visit to Champaign, as they'll be throwing parties before classes start after the weekend. Illinois should be the ones partying when this recruitment ends.

Paul Scruggs


Announced list

Top 5 (no order): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Xavier and UCONN.

Real list

Xavier, everyone else

Where Illini stand

Long shot. Scruggs will take an unofficial visit to Indiana on Monday, and he'll follow it up with an official visit trip to Xavier this weekend. Official visit dates are in place for Michigan State, UCONN and then Illinois into September. But there's no guarantee it goes that long.

http://www.scout.com/college/basketball/recruiting/story/1690813-scruggs... At the end of July, many expressed confidence that Scruggs would not make it past his official visit to Xavier. That could very well be the case. Chris Mack and his staff have the enviable position. Indiana has been chasing Scruggs since he was in middle school, but they don't even feel good right now.

That should tell you everything you need to know about Illinois' standing. If Scruggs elects to take all his visits, it is a potential positive to be the last one. Scruggs has a good relationship with Groce. He fits in the ball-screen offense. His camp took some notice to Tilmon's commitment. Scruggs also likes the academic side of the university.

But Xavier stacks up as a great fit for his big-bodied, physical brand of basketball at the lead guard position. They've made some big strides. And even if Scruggs plays this out, Illinois could very well have Frazier already committed before Scruggs' scheduled visit. They'd be just fine with that. Ecstatic, actually.

Kris Wilkes


Announced list

Top 11 (no order): Illinois, Arizona, Butler, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, UCLA, UCONN, Washington and Xavier.

Real list

North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana, Xavier, Michigan

Where Illini stand

Long shot. This has been the case all along. Illinois did a good job of hosting Wilkes and his family last summer. Groce and the staff watched Wilkes and Scruggs on the AAU circuit. Tilmon began reaching out to Wilkes after he committed.

http://www.scout.com/college/indiana/story/1691057-5-star-kris-wilkes-cu... Illinois only has plans to land one more wing in the 2017 class, and that's Goodwin. They would surely make an exception for Wilkes -- being a five-star, top-20 talent. But they shouldn't have to worry about that. Wilkes has official visits scheduled to North Carolina (Aug. 26-28) and UCLA (Sept. 22-24). Indiana and Xavier will get visits as well.

The Illini aren't officially out of this one. They'll continue to put in some work, especially in the case that Goodwin somehow ends up elsewhere. That will probably include a push for a visit. But it remains to be seen if they can swing that.

Victor Uyaelunmo


Announced list

Top 8 (no order): Illinois, Florida, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, UCONN and USC.

Real list

UCONN, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Illinois

Where Illini stand

Potential contender. Illinois wasn't even sure themselves on whether they'd make the cut on Uyaelunmo's list. They've tried to make him feel like a priority, especially over the last month. The Illini are trying to sell the 6-foot-10 big man on potentially playing some four alongside Tilmon. His length, athleticism and ability to rebound and block shots would be a great complement.

Illinois knows they need one more piece in the frontcourt. Uyaelunmo would give them some qualities that they lack. The Illini view him as Nnanna Egwu-like with a more mobile and explosive frame. Putting him with Tilmon, Michael Finke and Leron Black would give Illinois talent and versatility to do some damage down low. The same applies for Mayan Kiir, who is another big man down in Florida that Illinois has high on their wish list.

Kiir may be a better fit, but they're making sure to have multiple options entering this crucial stage. After making the cut with Uyaelunmo, the next step is trying to get him on campus for an official visit. Uyaelunmo took unofficial trips to Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Vandy and USC in June. He has already said that he plans to take a return trip to Tennessee for an official visit. Look out for UCONN as well.

The Huskies have major openings in their frontcourt, and they have historically done well with bigs in Uyaelunmo's realm. As for the Illini, they're taking this step by step. They're still in the fight, and if they can secure a visit, they have a chance to impress.

Theo John


Announced list

Top 6 (no order): Illinois, Cal, Marquette, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Purdue

Real list

Minnesota, Purdue, Marquette, Illinois, Oklahoma

Where Illini stand

Outside looking in. Illinois made John a priority throughout the spring and into the summer. The Illini were working on setting up an official visit for June prior to John extending his timeline after getting some new offers.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1687626-illini-in-final-six-... Groce and assistant coach Paris Parham established a good relationship with John and his family. They visited him in Minnesota on multiple occasions. They sold him on having immediate opportunity at Illinois. But then the Illini added a five-star talent in Tilmon at John's position.

John cut his list to six after that, and Illinois remained in consideration. John told IlliniInquirer.com that he was continuing to work on a date for an official visit to Champaign. He has already taken officials to Oklahoma and Purdue. He has one set up to Marquette in September. For this to work for Illinois, the staff has to convince him on being able to play with or behind Tilmon. As of late last month, John had reservations about the idea.

A source told IlliniInquirer.com in July that Minnesota is likely the team to beat -- despite there not being much outside noise about them along the way. John would like to stay in the Midwest. He wants to be able to play early and develop. He has some options, and right now, it looks like he'll probably end up somewhere other than Illinois.

Justin Smith


Announced list

Top 7 (no order): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Stanford, Villanova, Wisconsin and Xavier.

Real list

Stanford, Indiana, Villanova, Michigan

Where Illini stand

Cordially involved. Illinois is Smith's parents' alma mater. The Illini were the first 'big-time' offer for the in-state wing. Smith has been to campus on numerous occasions. Looking back to April 2015 -- when Groce offered five in-state 2017 targets on one day -- Smith appeared to be a top target for the future.

The Stevenson product included Illinois in his top seven on Monday. But the two parties don't look like a match right now, and they haven't for a while. The Illini have been all-in on Goodwin to close out their pursuit on the wing in this class. Illinois has kept their eyes open. They've watched Smith. They've stayed in contact. Smith has said kind things about Illinois, although there was a stretch where they went unmentioned in the spring.

Sometimes, it turns out that what looked like a fit doesn't materialize. There have been questions dating back to the high school season on how 'into each other' Illinois and Smith actually are in reality. Smith's recruitment as a whole has left those wondering who will go all out to get him. He had a good summer. He impressed with his athleticism. He's certainly an intriguing prospect from a raw talent perspective.

If Smith pairs his athleticism with toughness and some other intangibles, he can be a successful player at the next level. But unless something changes, there's a good chance it won't be in Champaign. Stanford has received a good amount of buzz for Smith recently.

Terrence Lewis


Announced list

Top 4 (no order): Illinois, Iowa State, Marquette, UNLV

Real list

Iowa State, Marquette, Illinois, UNLV

Where Illini stand

In the discussion. Being in the top four gives you a shot, and that's what Illinois seems to have with Lewis after he announced his list on Tuesday. There was back and forth all summer on whether the Illini were in or out for the talented wing. But Illinois continued to track him on the circuit and show their high level of interest.

http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1656888-terrence-lewis-impre... Lewis took an unofficial visit to Champaign during the spring, and he told IlliniInquirer.com then that he planned on coming back. He and his parents like the academic side of Illinois. Parham has built a good relationship with them. Lewis also said that he feels blessed to have an opportunity to play in the Big Ten.

But the competition won't be easy here. While the names involved shifted frequently in interviews with Lewis in the summer months, Iowa State has been a consistent contender all along. They were the first program in the top four to extend an offer, and they got him on campus early. Lewis is scheduled to take another unofficial visit to Iowa State this weekend.

Marquette is the home-city school for Lewis, and they could be a big threat. Although, they waited until last month to extend an offer. Meanwhile, UNLV may look like the oddball on this list. But Rob Jeter is an assistant there after spending 11 seasons as the head coach at UW-Milwaukee. Jeter is very connected in the Milwaukee and Chicago area, and he has made it a point to direct his focus to that region for UNLV. Lewis appears to be a prime target, and Jeter was the first to offer him a scholarship back at UW-Milwaukee prior to his freshman season.

It will be interesting to see how hard Illinois pushes for Lewis. He is likely a higher priority than Smith, but Goodwin is the main focus. If things slip with Goodwin, Lewis could very well be next in line on the wish list. Although, they'll have to be prepared in advance either way. Nevertheless, they have work to do in this particular recruitment.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories