Number of scholarships
Following the Jeremiah Tilmon signing, Illinois has two scholarships available in the Class of 2018. Of course, that is subject to change if attrition occurs (transfer, discipline, etc.). Technically, though, the Class of 2017 is not yet complete. The Illini could sign another prospect during the regular signing period (April 12 through May 17) and have targeted Australian big man Jacob Epperson, who took an unofficial visit to Illinois this fall and plans a spring decision. More likely, the Illini will now look in depth at the transfer market, both grad transfers and JuCo propsects, to try to add post depth.
1. Post player
The interior is a huge strength for the Illini this season. But the Illini will lose seniors Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne after this season. Next year, Leron Black and Michael Finke wil be juniors and provide two great options at the four (and Finke may play some at the five). Tilmon fills a huge need at the five, but the Illini still have a huge need for future depth in the post with Finke and Black graduating after the 2018-19 season -- and Tilmon possibly leaving early for the NBA. The Illini will likely look to add a grad transfer for short-term depth for the 2017-18 season, but Illinois has a huge need for a post player it can develop behind Tilmon.
2. Elite point guard
For once, Illinois has some point guard depth in its future.Current freshman Te'Jon Lucas has the makings of a quality distributor who makes those around him better. Incoming signee Trent Frazier is an even better fit for Groce's ball-screen offense due to his sharpshooting ability. But the Illini are always looking for an upgrade and the Class of 2018 provides a few opportunities for the Illini to land a program-elevating lead guard. Would the point guard spot get too cluttered? What a problem to have! Several of the recent NCAA champions, including UConn, Louisville and VIllanova, have played multiple point guards at the same time. Frazier certainly is capable of sliding over to the two.
Illinois loses an All-Big Ten caliber wing -- and likely to be one of the program's top-five career scorers -- when Malcolm Hill graduates and then loses Jalen Coleman-Lands, D.J. Williams and Aaron Jordan following the 2018-19 season. That leaves a senior Kipper Nichols and juniors Javon Pickett and DaMonte Williams as the top wings heading into the 2019-20 season. The Illini could use another option, either a tough, do-it-all wing or a skilled shooter with athleticism.
Ayo Dosunmu is the next in a great string of top-100 point guards at Morgan Park. Despite great efforts from Illinois, 2015 target Marcus LoVett (St. John's) and 2016 target Charlie Moore (California) went elsewhere. But that hasn't dissuaded the Illini from going all-out for Dosunmu, a five-star, top-20 prospect. The 6-foot-3 point guard uses his quickness, strength and athleticism to score (almost at will) when attacking the paint. Dosunmu took an unofficial visit to Illinois in September.
But Illinois isn't putting all its eggs in Dosunmu's basket. St. Louis area wing Courtney Ramey also has emerged as a top Illini target. The 6-foot-3, five-star recruit has great quickness, vision and can shoot pretty well. Ramey has visited the UI campus twice, most recently in August when he played with Da'Monte Williams in an open gym. Also, John Groce recently watched Ramey at his high school.
After Carte'Are Gordon committed to SLU, the Illini post options seem thin -- at least for the moment. But the Illini have extended a scholarship offer to Michigan big man Trevion Williams. He has a great combination of size and skill. Williams planned a visit to Champaign recently but had to reschedule. Michigan State and many others are involved.
Tim Finke has grown up an Illini fan in an Illini home just minutes away from the State Farm Center. His oldest brother, Michael Finke, is a redshirt sophomore and big contributor for the Illini. His father played at Illinois. But don't assume the Champaign Central junior star will also suit up for the Illini. The 6-foot-6 athletic, skilled wing is a frequent visitor to Illinois, but he is looking for the best fit. Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Oregon have emerged as real competition. Though, with Jordan Goodwin choosing SLU over Illinois, the Illini have more room and playing time to sell to Finke.
Speaking of Goodwin, Simeon wing Talen Horton-Tucker has some similarities to the 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball favorite. The big-bodied wing looks more like a football player, but he is quick, athletic and skilled (don't overlook his three-point shot). He's a bit overlooked right now with power-five offers from Iowa State, Northwestern and Missouri. But Illinois could join that list soon.