Recruiting, man. I've told more than one Illinois coach they have to be a little crazy to accept jobs that depend on the whims of 16- to 22-year-olds -- or the whims of whoever influences them most.
Credit Travis Ford. The SLU coach went all-out to land his program-changing prospect, Jordan Goodwin. He hired Goodwin's former AAU coach, Corey Tate, just to land the St. Louis Eagles star. Tate immediately earned that salary with Friday. Ford sold Goodwin on being the man from Day One, that he could showcase his skills to the NBA sooner and better at SLU -- since the roster is pretty bare -- than at a Big Ten program where he could be the best player on a talented, deep team that could contend for Big Ten titles if he joined his buddy Jeremiah Tilmon. Goodwin will have a ton of individual success at SLU, where he will put up monstrous numbers. He may be the Atlantic 10's best player some day. He's a heck of a basketball player and the kind Ford sorely wanted to change his program. Goodwin likely will do that. He'll likely lead SLU to an NCAA Tournament at some point. He chose to be a big fish in a small pond instead of a big fish in the B1G pond.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1695420-what-happened-goodwi...Sometimes you do everything right in a recruitment and don't win it. The Illini staff prioritized Goodwin longer than anyone. They were the first power-five school to tell Goodwin he was a power-five player. They were at all of his state championship games and all his AAU games the past few years. They landed the other 2017 downstate talent to surround him. They were in closing mode last fall and after Tilmon committed, but something kept Goodwin from picking the school that had long been his leader. Goodwin told the Belleville News-Democrat his decision actually came down to SLU and Northwestern. Ouch. This one reminds me of Cliff Alexander. Losing Goodwin definitely stings. As I've written before, Tilmon was the perception-changer. Goodwin -- the cutthroat top dog that Illinois has lacked for too long -- would have been the culture-changer. Losing him to an Atlantic 10 program definitely stings, but as my man Scottie P. says, "No ragrets" on this one. More just #shrugemoji. At least he's not playing at Northwestern or Michigan State.
Goodwin liked the attention of recruiting. And there's nothing wrong with that. Millionaires fawning over you. Thousands of fans tweeting at you. It's got to be a rush. But this Illinois staff has done a lot better with the prospects with lower-profile recruitments -- Jalen Coleman-Lands, D.J. Williams, Aaron Jordan, Leron Black, Michael Finke, Da'Monte Williams, Javon Pickett, etc. But you usually have to win some of those crazier recruitments to win big in college basketball, which is part of the reason why TIlmon was such a huge coup.
Now, it's time to move on. Wing is actually the smallest need in the 2017 class. The 2017-18 roster will feature Coleman-Lands (junior), Williams (junior), Jordan (junior), Nichols (sophomore), Pickett (freshman) and Williams (freshman). Six of 13 scholarships for two positions and none graduating until after the 2018-19 season. You take Goodwin regardless of need or position.
But the Illini have bigger needs at point guard and in the post. Current freshman Te'Jon Lucas is the only point guard on the 2017-18 roster. Sure, Illinois is glad to have one, but you need more than one. Top-75 Florida point guard Trent Frazier will take his official visit to Illinois next week, and it's -- as my friends Semisonic say -- closing time. The score-first point guard complements Lucas, a pass-first point guard, well and fits so well in Groce's ball-screen offense.
The next big need, despite Tilmon's addition, is a post. Tilmon will fill a huge hole at the five -- alongside Finke and Black for two years -- but for how long? The Illini could use a rim-protecting, more athletic big in the mold of Nnanna Egwu (you guys know I was always a fan when others weren't) to complement and eventually replace Tilmon in the middle. Athletic, long Florida big man Mayan Kiir certainly fits the bill. Frazier and Kiir would give the Illini a heck of a class.
I can understand taking Nojel Eastern, Abu Kigab or Justin Smith with the sixth and final scholarship spot. And if Paul Scruggs or Kris Wilkes want to hop on, by all means. But if the Illini don't land another wing, it wouldn't be such a terrible thing to roll that spot over to the 2018 class for Champaign Central wing Tim Finke, who may be more open to staying at Illinois if there is more playing time on the wing.
Groce can still land a huge class in 2017. It just lost a bit of its punch on Friday.