CHAMPAIGN -- A huge weekend is set to kick off on the Illini campus, and John Groce is bringing in three pieces of his 2017 class that ranks third in the country for their official visits.
Five-star East St. Louis center Jeremiah Tilmon, four-star Peoria Manual combo guard Da'Monte Williams and three-star Belleville East wing Javon Pickett will all be in town starting on Friday. The trio will take in the sights and sounds of Saturday's game day atmosphere, as Illinois football hosts North Carolina in a prime time clash.
http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1703941-illini-visit-primer-... Groce's 2017 pledges will also be there to aid Illinois' pitch to five-star Indianapolis small forward Kris Wilkes, who began his official visit in Champaign on Friday morning.
Overall, it is a weekend for celebration for what the hoops program has already accomplished on the recruiting trail. Meanwhile, it is a huge opportunity to take that class from very good to elite.
"I'm real excited to get up there, especially with my guys that are committed and we're also trying to recruit Kris to come with us," Pickett said. "I'm very excited to watch the football team play. I'm looking forward to hanging out with the Illini fan base, the team and the coaches. We should have a great time."
Tilmon relayed his excitement to IlliniInquirer.com on Friday as well.
"I'm hype for real," he said. "It's going to be crazy."
This will be the first time that Pickett and Tilmon have returned to the Illini campus since committing. Pickett was the first domino, as he made his pledge in January. Tilmon was the monster addition that came in July.
Pickett talked about what has transpired since he gave the Illinois staff his verbal back in the winter.
"I'm real excited about how the class is coming along. I was the first, and we've had some more good additions. I recruited Jeremiah hard," Pickett said. "It's great to have those guys up there with me knowing that's who I'm going to spend my college career with."
How does No. 3 in the country look right now as it relates to 2017 class team rankings?
"That's real big, and we have a chance to add another guy," Pickett said. "It just shows how good of a job the coaching staff has done with recruiting this class."
That next piece is, of course, the focus area of the weekend. Wilkes is ranked No. 18 in the 2017 class, and he is a future NBA wing with length, athleticism and versatility. Illinois is the first stop on his official visit slate, and they're working to make a big impression.
Most thought the Illini would have Jordan Goodwin committed on the wing right now -- including Tilmon -- but with his SLU pledge last month, Illinois is instead still on the chase. If they get Wilkes, the loss of Goodwin won't even be a blip on the radar.
"I'm gonna try my best to get him," Tilmon said. "He's dope."
"I just want to make him comfortable with us so he'll feel like that's the place for him to be and he can gel with us," Pickett said. "Just being there to talk with him and have fun with him."
Outside of the Wilkes push, the Illini commits are just looking to bond with each other and enjoy their time on campus.
"We'll just be up there having fun and not really having any stress on our shoulders about anything," Pickett said. "I'm looking forward to just going and having fun."
A large portion of that fun will center around the football game for the recruits, and their families too.
"I'm real excited," Pickett said. "My mom and my family are real big Lovie Smith fans. Just to be in the stadium watching him coach, and possibly being able to meet him, that's going to be incredible to me. And then, there's going to be a real good football game."
All eyes will be on the football field on Saturday night, and for good reason. But there's plenty more going on throughout the weekend, and this is a big one for Illini hoops.
For coverage of the Illini hoops visits this weekend, be sure to keep it locked on the premium board for updates HERE.