Who Will be Next?

Recruiting is the lifeline of any college athletic program and head basketball coach of Illinois, Bruce Weber, is still hot after some of the nation's best high school prospects.

Point guard Sherron Collins from Chicago Crane was the latest All-American to avoid playing for Weber, but that doesn't stop the National Coach of the Year from going after the next great player.

Earlier this week I spoke with the mother of one prospect, Ramar Smith of Detroit Michigan. Sources said two schools lead for his services: Arkansas and Illinois. When I spoke with his mother she gave me the same impression. Smith is currently ranked by Scout.com as the #5 best shooting guard in the class of 2006. According to his father, Smith has spent every night after practice this week working on his game.

Illinois has had plenty of success from the Peoria area. One player that most fans seem to forget about and is probably closer to a verbal than anyone is 6'10" big man Bill Cole from Peoria Richwoods. Cole is not going to commit anytime in the near future but his stock is rising. Cole's love for the Illini grows each time he visits and he would be a top notch recruit for Weber if they can sign him.

From the Class of 2007 don't be surprised if guard Eric Gordon 6-4 from Indianapolis, Indiana pulls the trigger sooner rather than later. "I love Illinois. They show me how important I am to them and their fans are great. I love Illinois basketball," said Gordon. Currently Gordon is ranked as the #1 shooting guard in the class of 2007. At this point Duke is trying to close the gap with Gordon, but currently Illinois is the leader.

Then next to follow Illinois could be Derrick Rose 6-3 of Chicago Simeon Vocational HS, another 5-star recruit. In an earlier interview with his high school coach Robert Smith, he indicated that Rose may not want to attend a school where he has to be the "man". In October of this year both Rose and Gordon attended an Illini scrimmage together and there was talk about the two of them playing on the same team in college.

The game of recruiting can be tough. The thing I've learned over the years is this - not every school can get every player. If you lose one great player another one will follow soon after that. Case in point - Collins will be a Jayhawk, but is there a chance that next year Rose could pick Illinois? Only time will tell, but until then enjoy the ride.


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