Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper breaks down which way the Illini are trending with their top 2017 targets.
Illinois bounced back quickly from Jordan Goodwin's stinging decision to pick SLU with a weekend commitment from Florida four-star point guard Trent Frazier.
In Frazier, the Illini landed their priority target at a huge need position. Currently, the Illini have the No. 3 ranked recruiting class in 2017 with two available scholarships left. Now, the Illini can further narrow their focus on two more need positions: big man and wing.
Things are heating up with other targets, and there is opportunity out on the horizon.
Here is a full breakdown of which direction the Illini are trending with their top targets in 2017.
On the board
Off the board
The Illini got what they needed in this recruitment earlier this month with Louisville landing a commitment from top-30 big man Malik Williams
. The Cardinals were thought to be the early leader, but a big opportunity has emerged for the Illini with Mayan Kiir
. Illinois made Kiir a top priority throughout the July evaluation periods. N.C. State and UNLV are some other programs in the mix right now. Victory Rock Prep (Fla.) head coach Loren Jackson told IlliniInquirer.com
that the key is finding a place where Kiir can get on the floor right away. Illinois has other pieces lined up in the frontcourt with five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon
, and incumbent frontcourt contributors like Leron Black
and Michael Finke
. The Illini have been selling that Kiir can play a significant role in that mix from the beginning, and they'll need him to buy into that. Jackson said that he and Kiir will be talking about the next moves in the process, which will include official visits. A source told IlliniInquirer.com on Monday that Kiir and the Illini staff are working on locking in an official visit, but the date has yet to be determined.
Top-100 wing Abu Kigab
named Illinois in his top six, and Champaign is one of three official visit destinations that he has set right now (Sept. 16-18). Kigab told IlliniInquirer.com
that he likes "everything about Illinois", and he has been on the Illini radar for quite some time. Illinois extended an offer his way last summer, and Ford has established a good relationship with the Canadian product. With Goodwin out of the picture, the Illini can turn up their pursuit with Kigab. But they will have to beat out Oregon at the top, and Kigab has an official visit set to Eugene on Sept. 10.
Being in the final five for a five-star wing can only be taken as good news -- especially coming two days after Goodwin's commitment to SLU. The Illini hoped to make the cut to give themselves a shot. It sounds like they just made it, but a shot is what they have by remaining alive in this recruitment. It is an outside shot, as Indiana and Xavier appear to be in the top echelon. But Wilkes' father told IlliniInquirer.com
that they plan to visit Champaign "soon". Illinois is pushing to get him on campus for the weekend of Sept. 9, which would include a big home football game against North Carolina. Wilkes' father said that is when Illinois wants them there, but nothing is finalized yet. Theoretically, anything can happen once visits begin. The only visit date set in stone right now is one to UCLA on Sept. 22-24. Illinois checks boxes to be a fit for Wilkes. But surpassing Indiana and Xavier -- even if they can get by UCLA -- is an entirely different challenge, and it doesn't look to be likely at the outset.
On the bright side for Illinois, Paul Scruggs
is still on the board and they have an official visit lined up in early September. Many had a feeling Scruggs would commit right after the AAU season. Since then, he has taken visits to Indiana and Xavier without committing. Scruggs was supposed to go to Michigan State this past weekend, but that visit was cancelled. UCONN and Illinois are the visits left on the schedule. After landing Frazier, Illinois has their point guard in this class. The Illini will not stop pursuing Scruggs, as they will sell that he can be a versatile playmaker in the frontcourt - both on and off the ball. But adding Frazier probably lessens Illinois' already small odds. That being said, don't think for a second that the Illini will think twice about landing Frazier. Scruggs still seems to be a clear Xavier lean at this stage of the game anyways.
Alonzo Verge finally made his choice on a high school for his senior year, as he will be headed to Thornton. Verge kept people guessing throughout the summer, and that has been the theme with him in general. The real question is where he will be attending school a year from now. Illinois has continued to stay in contact with one of the state's top talents. He is arguably the best 2017 prospect in Chicago. But Verge hasn't put himself in a situation to be someone you can rely on in this class.
The Illini made the top seven with three-star center Victor Uyaelunmo
late last month. Illinois wants another big guy in this class, and Uyaelunmo fits into that push. He has official visits set up to Florida, Tennessee and USC in September. The Illini will have to get in that mix if they want to be a real threat.
The Illini extended an offer to Australian big man Jacob Epperson
in the middle of July, and Groce made sure to watch him at the NY2LA Summer Jam in Milwaukee. Epperson's recruitment blew up with offers in a hurry. Marquette, Texas, Purdue, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Utah are among those who have also come on with offers. Epperson has yet to narrow anything down. One positive for Illinois is that he will attend La Lumiere this fall, and the Illini staff has developed strong ties there.
It's been mostly quiet on the Nojel Eastern
front since the end of the AAU season. Eastern has not cut down his list. His mom told IlliniInquirer.com that they weren't going to be like everyone else, and that they are in no rush to do anything. A source said Eastern will likely sit back and see where certain dominoes fall. He would figure to be an even bigger priority for Illinois after Goodwin's decision to go elsewhere. But the Illini aren't considered one of the top contenders right now. According to Joe Henricksen
of City/Suburban Hoops Report, Eastern will take an official visit to Purdue this upcoming weekend. He will visit Michigan State next month as well.
At the end of May, Minneapolis-area big man Theo John
said he was in the process of setting up an official visit to Illinois. He said something similar in July. But things changed that month with Tilmon jumping on board. All of a sudden, the opportunity Illinois was selling isn't exactly there. John has taken two official visits, and he has three visits remaining: Cal, Marquette and Minnesota.