The Illini have landed point guards in the last two classes, but that won't stop John Groce from trying to further upgrade the position in the 2018 class.
Top-60 junior lead guard Courtney Ramey fits squarely into that mix, and Illinois hosted the Webster Groves HS (Mo.) product for an unofficial visit on Saturday.
"It was a good time on campus. This time, I got to play with the players. I got to meet a couple more players than last time," Ramey said. "I met more coaches. I just felt like it went good."
Ramey visited Champaign last August and picked up an offer. Coming back for a second time added more familiarity to the relationship, and Ramey really liked the opportunity to play in the open gym with some current players.
"Playing with them was a great experience for me," he said. "I think I played well. I hit a couple shots. I feel like they like playing with me. I was able to get my teammates some open shots too."
During open gym, Ramey got a chance to team up with Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Hill.
"I remember watching him play growing up. He's a good player. He was actually the first person I met when I arrived at Illinois for the visit," Ramey said. "I feel like he added a little bit more to his game. He can score off the bounce. He's hitting more jumpers. I think he can win Big Ten Player of the Year because he's experienced, and he's gotten bigger and he's more athletic."
Hill is well on his way to being a hoops success story from the metro-east area, and the Illini are locked in on adding more talent within that 20-mile radius from St. Louis. The Orange and Blue already have a pledge from East St. Louis five-star big man Jeremiah Tilmon. They have three-star Belleville East wing Javon Pickett on board as well.
Assistant coach Jamall Walker has recruited that area with success, and the Illini hope it can continue with what Ramey could bring to the table.
"They say they like the pace I play with and the way I can get my teammates open," Ramey said. "They feel like I can play multiple positions in college basketball, and they feel like I'm a great shooter."
"They just want me to know that they're going to recruit me hard, and they want me to know that I'm a big priority of theirs. They're just showing a lot of interest in me."
What's not to like? Ramey has loads of upside as a 6-foot-3 lead guard. He has outstanding vision and court savvy. His game is expanding too, as he shows off his scoring arsenal.
Ramey certainly put that on display in July.
"This summer, I just tried to add more strength and show people that I can score off the bounce and score for myself," he said. "After my freshman year, I was focused on showing people that I'm a great passer. So this summer, I tried to come out and show people that I can also score the ball."
He accomplished that mission, and his stock continues to climb. His list of offers is following that trend. Illinois was one of the first five programs to offer him a scholarship last year. Now, Ramey has more than 20 to his name.
"The recruitment is going well right now," Ramey said. "A lot of schools are calling me every day. My dad and I are going to sit down and talk about maybe taking some other visits."
Outside of Illinois, some other notable offers include Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri, Ohio State, Purdue, Texas and Texas A&M.
There will be plenty of competition along the way. But Illinois has some things working for them. Ramey has been to campus twice, and he told IlliniInquirer.com that he will be back for a game at the State Farm Center this season.
As a skilled lead guard, he likes Groce's system -- which is tailored to those kind of players.
"I like their system. I like the pace they play at, and I like that they use the ball-screens. That can be a great advantage of mine," Ramey said. "I can read it well. I can pass off the ball-screen. I can shoot off the ball-screen. It gives me multiple options and it works to my advantage."
Ramey has said that he has a "great relationship" with Coach Groce, who made it a point of emphasis to reach out once the contact period began for rising juniors in June. Ramey also has a good bond with Pickett, who plays for the same AAU program (Jets-Ramey United).
"I love Javon as a player. He's so smooth. He's a bigger guard," Ramey said. "We played the day before I went up to Illinois and we went at it. We have a great relationship. We talk about Illinois. We just talk about life sometimes too."
Ultimately, it comes down to the right fit. What does that entail?
"Having a great relationship with the coaches. I want a great atmosphere for me to be in," Ramey said. "A place where I can play out my college career, build my brand and build my future."
The Illini hope that future is in Champaign, but wherever the destination, it will be bright.