CHAMPAIGN -- The recruitment of 2017 top-100 big man Jacob Epperson has escalated quickly since his emergence on the scene in July, and the Illini have been very active -- especially since the Australian native transferred to La Lumiere (Ind.).
John Groce and his staff have established valuable connections with La Lumiere and head coach Shane Heirman. Illinois has utilized that and their proximity to the school to lay early groundwork.
Epperson visited campus in late September, and he returned last week to watch Illinois' game against Winthrop at the State Farm Center. He's been to Illinois as much as any other campus thus far.
"I've enjoyed it," Epperson told IlliniInquirer.com last week. "I like the campus. I like what they have to offer and everything like that. And this was my first time seeing the stadium and it looks really nice."
Epperson said he is beginning to build a good rapport with Groce and assistant coach Jamall Walker.
"It's good. They come to my games. This was my first time coming to theirs," he said. "So we're building up a strong relationship there."
Purdue has also hosted Epperson for a game, as he visited West Lafayette on Nov. 11 when the Boilermakers played McNeese State. Illinois and Purdue are two of many programs in the mix for the 6-foot-11 big man.
Epperson also listed Creighton, Texas, Toledo and Villanova as those who are involved. He admittedly has too many to remember off the top of his head.
"It's busy. Just trying to manage it all," Epperson said of the process. "But it's good. I'm enjoying it."
Epperson's father, Ken, is a Louisville native and he is an all-time leader in a number of categories at Toledo. He went on to play professionally in Australia, where he currently resides. Jacob has said that his parents plan on moving back to the United States in the next month or so.
Last week, Epperson visited Champaign with his uncle, who lives in Indianapolis. Staying close to his family in the Midwest has been considered a preference for him, but not something that will ultimately decide his choice.
This will be an interesting one to follow into the spring, when Epperson is expected to make a decision and then sign during the late period in April. It's been a whirlwind since the summer, as he showed up on the AAU circuit in July as an unknown.
"It's crazy. One minute, no one knew me. The next minute, I'm just getting all these phone calls from everywhere," Epperson said. "It's crazy. It's a lot to take in."
Now, Epperson is one of four centers left on the board in Scout.com's top 60 for the 2017 class. The Illini would love to have him with a need for depth and a long-term solution at the center spot.