Canadian four-star wing Abu Kigab will choose between Illinois and Oregon on Friday afternoon.
Kigab took an official visit to Oregon on Sept. 9, and he followed it up with a trip to Champaign the next weekend. The 6-foot-6 small forward was slated to take an official visit to Cal last weekend, but he didn't go.
Now, he is getting ready to announce his destination. On Wednesday night, Kigab sat down with his coach out in California to weigh the pros and the cons between the Ducks and the Illini. He has talked it over with his family and his AAU coach as well.
John Groce and his staff really like Kigab's toughness, versatility and ability to defend. With Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Hill leaving after this season, the Illini need someone who can help them at the three-spot in the short term and the long term.
Going Illinois' way
Assistant coach Dustin Ford has done well with identifying talent, getting involved early and building relationships with players from Canada. Ford did the same thing with Kigab.
"That's my guy," Kigab has told IlliniInquirer.com on multiple occasions.
Illinois has been recruiting Kigab for more than two years. They offered him a scholarship back in June 2015. So they've had plenty of time to form their sell, and they strengthened it with their official visit last month.
"It was a great experience," Kigab said. "I had a great time hanging out with the fellas. I really got a vibe from the fans. Overall, it was really good."
"The one thing that stood out the most was the love that everybody gave me. Not just the fans. Everybody I met was showing me love."
The Illini have stressed opportunity and development with Kigab. A source told IlliniInquirer.com this week that Kigab felt that Illinois gave him the clearest path to playing right away. That was a significant factor for Illinois in making this a tough decision.
Oregon has Canadian star Dillon Brooks at the three, and many have anticipated him leaving for the NBA Draft after the upcoming season. That has been part of the Ducks' sell to Kigab. But Brooks is coming off of foot surgery this summer and there are still questions about the way his game translates to the next level. If he stays, that cuts majorly into Kigab's shot at early minutes.
Going against Illinois
With how much work the Illini have put in with prospects from north of the border, one would think that Groce would have a Canadian product on his roster. But while Groce and Ford have been painfully close, they haven't been able to light a commitment cigar.
And they've taken plenty of swings. It started with Xavier Rathan-Mayes in the 2013 class. The Illini got into the top three with him, but the top-50 combo guard chose Florida State. There have been a handful of others since then.
Jamal Murray, Justin Jackson, Montaque Gill-Caesar and Nolan Narain were all priority targets in recent classes. The Illini also chased Dylan Ennis on the fifth-year transfer market last spring. But they lost him to a program that has done exceptionally well with landing Canadian talent: Oregon.
The Ducks have three starters on their roster this season whose hometown is in Canada: Brooks, Ennis and Chris Boucher. They have other sells going for them as well.
Oregon has won an NCAA tournament game in four straight seasons, and they made it to the Elite Eight this past year. As a source told IlliniInquirer.com, there is a 'sexiness' about Oregon that attracts Kigab. They have top-notch facilities, gear and more of the like.
"It's just a great place to be," Kigab told IlliniInquirer.com back in August.
Confidence in a commitment
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest: 1 -- Oregon has been the assumed pick for Kigab for a while. The Illini made it closer than many expected. Earlier in the week, this race was described as pretty close to 50-50. It was said that Kigab would have to pick with his gut, because on paper, it was too close to call. While there is more of a risk at Oregon with immediate playing time, that is where Kigab's gut was ultimately leaning.
Paired with Kipper Nichols, Kigab would give the Illini some tough and athletic options at the three for the 2017-18 season. Both players are plus-defenders who love to compete at both ends of the floor. Both like to attack off the dribble, and they are not afraid to do some dirty work on the glass or in any aspect of effort plays. The Illini feel that Kigab can develop his strength and offensive skill set to become a big-time contributor down the road. Kigab would be Groce's fifth commitment in a 2017 class that is already guaranteed to be one of the best in the Big Ten.