The Illini staff feels they are a piece or two away from being a legit competitor next season, and Wright State grad transfer guard Mark Alstork is one they feel very strongly about as a potential addition.
Alstork is a big-time scorer, who averaged 19 points per game last season and shot 38.7 percent from deep. He cut his list to six on Wednesday night: Illinois, Georgetown, Louisville, LSU, Pittsburgh and South Carolina.
The 6-foot-5 guard has visits set to all six schools. He will kick off the process with a visit to Pittsburgh on Friday. Next Thursday, he will head to Champaign for a visit.
"It's going to be a very tough decision. I've built some great relationships with these coaches," Alstork told IlliniInquirer.com. "They all have great situations for me, great visions for me and great opportunity. I'm more than thankful to be a person that they're really trying to get."
"I'm looking for somewhere that I can call home for the next year. Come in there and win, and hopefully be a first-round draft pick next year."
Alstork is not shy about his NBA aspirations, nor should he be.
"Everybody knows my desires, what I want to do, who I want to become and where I want to be this time next year. That's in the NBA," he said. "I'm looking for a fit and a blueprint to help me get there."
Alstork showed enough last season to get looks from the NBA. And he feels that the feedback he received will help him with one season to go.
"Just being more of a complete player. Being more than just a scorer," Alstork said. "Being a guy who can play with two other scorers. Being able to be a primary guard and lead a team. Being more defensively involved. Also continuing to get better with my shot selection and my turnovers."
The Illini would love to be the team that gets him there. Illinois lost more than 57 percent of their scoring output from last year's team, which includes the program's third all-time leading scorer Malcolm Hill. They need someone who can take and make shots at a high level.
Illini assistant Chin Coleman got a good look at Alstork during his time at UIC, and he has been in hot pursuit of him.
"Me and Coach Coleman -- he watched me play the last couple years in the Horizon League. He knows my game," Alstork said. "He's scouted against me and knows what I do best."
Head coach Brad Underwood has also worked to establish a good relationship with Alstrok, and he has made a very good impression.
"Coach Underwood is a phenomenal coach and knows what he's doing as far as allowing scorers to become the best they can be," Alstork said. "Executing offensive game plans. That showed with him leading the nation in offensive efficiency. I feel like they have a good situation."
"He knows how to get players good looks. He knows how to put people in the right position. All of that is at a high level. That's important for a guy like me. Just an IQ for the game of basketball. You don't get that at that level at a mid-major. Me being in a more serious environment will definitely bring out the best in me."
Underwood has made it clear that he wants a quick-hitting offense. One that can score in the first seven seconds of the shot clock. He needs attacking lead guards, and he added a big one last week in Illinois Mr. Basketball Mark Smith. Top-100 lead guard Trent Frazier and sophomore Te'Jon Lucas will add to that effort.
Now, he needs a bucket-getter around the perimeter who can also handle the ball. Alstork fits that profile, and he likes the fast-paced style.
"Definitely. I feel like I can play in any style, but uptempo definitely fits me," he said. "I like to have the freedom to get up shots and play my game."
The next step is getting on campus and finding the right fit in terms of opportunity, development and relationships.
"I'm not a 'beat around the bush' type of guy. I'm a loyal and confident person," Alstork said. "I feel like I need to look people in their eye and hold them accountable with what they're saying. And hold myself accountable in terms of what I'm saying I can do. And just feel a genuine connection between each other."
Illinois will relish their chance to make that happen.