After Jeremiah Tilmon made his signing official this week, Illinois currently has the No. 8 recruiting class in the country. The Illini likely will finish with their first top-15 class of the John Groce era and their first since 2011, when Bruce Weber landed a six-man class that included four top-75 prospects (Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Myke Henry and Mike Shaw).
This was a great signing period for Illini basketball. Illinois took advantage strong cycle of downstate talent, landing three Big Ten talents (Tilmon, Peoria Manual guard DaMonte Williams and Belleville East wing Javon Pickett) from south of I-80. The Illini also found the scoring lead guard they've desperately wanted for four years (Trent Frazier) in a rare recruiting territory (Florida).
But like every staff in the country -- yes, including Duke and Kentucky -- Illinois didn't land every recruit it wanted. Here are the Illini's five toughest misses of the Class of 2017.
Five toughest misses
Illinois was the first power-five program to offer the tough, skilled Belleville Althoff wing. The Illini were at more of his games the past two years than any other staff. The Illini had commitments from his pals, Tilmon and Pickett. But the relationship quickly went silent when nearby SLU and first-year head coach Travis Ford amped up its efforts this summer. Illinois sold Goodwin -- who can best be described as a winner -- on being a culture changer in a program-changing class. But so did SLU, where he will be even more of the focus and "the man." Goodwin would have elevated this into a no-doubt top-10 class nationally for Illinois and could've been the heart and soul of the Illini program for the next four years. He'll instead be that for SLU's rebuild -- and there's little doubt he'll be successful.
Even without Goodwin, Mayan Kiir would've given the Illini a great final piece to the class and basically given them a future possible starting lineup in one class with Frazier at the 1, WIlliams at the 2, Pickett at the 3, Kiir at the 4 and Tilmon at the 5. In actuality, Kiir would've been the big to complement Tilmon, develop behind Tilmon and take over once Tilmon heads to the pros. The long, athletic, versatile Floridian -- who visited Illinois in October -- would've solidified great short-term depth in the post and have given Illinois a post player to build around for the future. But Kiir wanted to play right away, and Illinois couldn't guarantee that while VCU could.
This always seemed like a long shot for Illinois, and credit Groce and assistant Jamall Walker for nudging into the top-three. Wilkes, likely one-and-done player, would have likely given Illinois a top-five class and momentum unseen in a decade. WIlkes was really drawn to his fit at Illinois as a no-doubt three given Illinois' post depth, and Walker seemed to develop a better relationship with Wilkes than any other assistant. Like the three other top-50 prospects in the state of Indiana, Wilkes passed up the Hoosiers, but the bright lights and recent run of first-round draft picks at UCLA appealed more to him than an Illinois program that has just one first-round draft pick during the past decade.
Illinois got in early on the Minnesota big man. Assistant Paris Parham recruited him hard, but the one downside of the Tilmon commitment is it scared off other post pieces like John, who has a no-doubt Big Ten body but may need some time to develop. John would've given Illinois great long-term depth at the five position. WIth Tilmon likely staying just two years at Illinois and without a player like John also in the fold, center is a huge position of need heading into the spring and the 2018 class.
Illinois landed two good in-state wings, but they invested a lot of time into Eastern, a skilled, long player. Illinois offered Eastern during the spring of 2014, about the same time they offered Tilmon, so they were sold on him pretty early. But once the Illini landed Williams and Pickett, the team focused more on point guards and posts -- and Wilkes. This may hurt more because Eastern signed with Big Ten rival Purdue.
Other former targets
Illinois always seemed on the fringes of this recruitment with Xavier, the long-time leader, closing it down.
The Ohio big man would've filled a huge need as an athletic big, but -- like Scruggs -- Illinois never seemed like a top threat.
The Roger Powell-like forward would've been a good fit in this class, but Illinois didn't make his top-six.
The Stevenson (Ill.) star's parents both went to Illinois. Smith has a high athletic ceiling, but the two sides never seemed to align in this recruitment. Illini fans surely will watch closely with him at rival Indiana, but Illinois had bigger needs elsewhere. Sometimes, there just isn't a fit. He was close to making the top-five.
Illini finished second for the Canadian wing behind Oregon. Kigab would've given Illinois the tough, athletic defender that it wants, though Kipper Nichols could fill that need. Illini assistant Dustin Ford has worked his Canadian connections for a while, but the Illini are still empty-handed on targets from the north. He was close to making the top-five.
Illinois could use a Nnanna Egwu-like defender in the post, and Uyaelunmo seems to have that kind of length and athleticism. The Ilini never became a top threat though.
The Milwaukee wing was one of the more intriguing wing prospects in the Class of 2017 because he has a sweet stroke from the perimeter, athleticism to attack the rim and the length to be a heck of a defender. Illinois made the final four, but the log jam on the wing seemed to deter him.
The dynamic, electric combo guard received an early Illini offer. He always had the talent, but off-the-court issues forced Illinois and other programs to look elsewhere.
The tough but undersized four received an early offer from Illinois, but Illinois and other power-five programs backed off when his game, especially offensively, didn't grow much. He also sustained a torn ACL a few months ago. But he's a heck of a get for Loyola coach Porter Moser.