Sure it would have been nice to land this star recruit, but the fact is after hearing the press conference, Jon Scheyer's dream was to play for Duke all along. For whatever reason it's something Illini fans have to deal with. When this young man was five years old he fell in love with Duke watching them play in the NCAA tournament. Tough for Weber to overcome that. Coach K has been at Duke forever it seems; this is only Weber's second year at Illinois. No one with a high basketball IQ can question Weber's coaching ability; he's proven how good he is. But for Jon it was different. During the press conference on Score AM 670 in Chicago Scheyer commented, "There was an aura of excitement whenever Jon talked about Duke or Coach K. It just wasn't the same with Illinois."
Now what, you may ask. The Illini are in with some of the nation's best preps. Years ago most of Illinois recruits came from the State of Illinois. Now the Illini are working their home state first and with authority, but not limiting themselves to it. Just Recently Coach Bruce Weber landed a top 50 recruit from Ohio in Richard Semrau. Last year Weber beat Michigan State for big man Shaun Pruitt, and during the end of the season Weber landed 6-3 guard Calvin Brock from Simeon High School in Chicago. All those players mentioned are four-star recruits and are young players with tremendous upside. Having seen Brock in action, and this is not a false statement - Brock was the one of the top two athletes on the Illini roster last year. My first pick would be sophomore-to-be Brian Randle. This year's magical run Illinois had a 37-2 record and they did this with an all junior and senior line-up. Trust me when I say - the cupboard is not bare in Champaign.
Incoming recruit Chester Frazier from Lake Clifton-Eastern HS in Baltimore, Maryland has been playing great and will fit perfectly into Weber's motion offense. Don't judge every recruit by being a McDonalds AA. This past season in the final four, the Louisville Cardinals had none. This team from Illinois that tied the NCAA record for most wins and played in the school's first title game had only one - and that was Dee Brown. The team's best pro-prospect is obviously Deron Williams and he was a top 50 recruit. Some guy from Chicago Julian that went to Duke named Sean Dockery may have taken Williams spot on that McDonalds team.
The Illini will be fine. All signs are pointing in the right direction for Weber. The high school and AAU coaches in the state love him. For example, when I spoke with AAU coach Luther Topps back in November this is what Topps had to say, "Coach Bruce Weber is good. He showed me a lot at the scrimmage; people better start noticing that he's a good coach."
"Bruce let's his kids play to their strength." Those were the words that two of Luther's players said to him and the fact that he gives so much freedom to Dee, Luther and Deron. "Coach Weber lets those boys play the way the game is supposed to be played: hard, fast and with defense. They have athletes and they really push the ball up the court. When Bill Self was down there they never played like that," Topps said.
Don't panic, Illini Nation. It's still early for such recruits like Sherron Collins of Crane High School; Brian Carlwell and Willie Walker from Illinois; Willie Kemp and Thaddeus Young of Tennessee; and Eric Gordon, Armon Bassett, Mike Conley and Marques Johnson of Indiana. Most sources will tell you that Illinois may have the edge for Collins, Walker, Carlwell, Kemp and Bassett.
Illinois may not have the year they had this year, but in the next couple of years they should be back on top. Recruits know this. In a recent interview done by Scout.com's Dave Telep on May 16th, '07 recruit Eric Gordon said this about Illinois, "I've been liking them because of their coach and their guard play. A lot of guys are leaving so they might have one down year, but in a couple of years they'll be good." Expect Gordon to stay close to home. "I want to stay somewhere in the Midwest or maybe a school like North Carolina."