The Illinois Fightin' Illini has secured a commitment from another member of the junior class. On the heels of a pledge from wing guard Eric Gordon (Scout.com No. 10), Bruce Weber and his staff landed Peoria Richwoods forward Bill Cole.
"He wanted to go to Illinois all along," Richwoods coach Mike Ellis said. "He didn't want to commit too soon to be fair to the process. He wanted to look at other schools and make sure it was the right fit."
Ellis said that Wisconsin had offered and so did DePaul. Notre Dame, Kentucky, Iowa and Michigan State were also showing initial interest. However, the junior who averages 18 points and 11 rebounds figured the time was right.
"He decided that he's going to commit to Illinois," Ellis said. "He's thrilled about it and he felt like it was such a good fit that now would be the best time to decide and move forward with it."
Peoria has long been a fertile recruiting ground for the Illinois program. The current Illinois roster boasts two players, including Jamar Smith, a Richwoods alum. Assistant coach Wayne McClain is a Peoria native and was highly accomplished as a high school coach in that part of the state. Those variables certainly didn't hurt the Illini's chances with Cole.
"I think it's just the familiarity with the program," Ellis said. "They've obviously established a great program with the type of kids they have and I think Bill wanted to follow in the footsteps of great kids from Peoria. Since Jerry Hester there has always been a Peoria kid at Illinois."
And now there will be three once the fall of 2007 rolls around. Cole is a face-up forward in the truest sense of the term. Comfortable playing on the perimeter, he boasts a soft touch to 3-point range. He ran with the Illinois Warriors last summer and participated in the Nike Hoop Jamboree, a showcase for a number of the top underclassmen in the nation.