Regardless what you think of Illinois basketball, a lot of people think it's big time and Curtis Wheeler of the Topp Sports AAU program is one of them. Each time you speak with Wheeler, you get the impression that he feels Illinois is one of the nation's elite programs.
InsideIllini.com wants to know what the coaches think of the program at Illinois and Wheeler gave us his opinion on some of the recent struggles with this year's team.
"First, people need to realize Illinois lost three great guards to the NBA. I don't care what anyone says, that's kind of hard to replace. However it is Illinois and I thought maybe they would have had someone to come in and replace those players; I mean like someone to come in right away. I know Illinois fans don't want to hear this and I'm sorry, but I like that guard they have coming in a lot - Demetri McCamey. It's too bad they lost Eric Gordon, which would have been a great backcourt. Both guys can post people up, they're strong, they can shoot and they can defend very well. The players they have right now play hard and they're scrappy, but just don't have it right now. I have to be honest, Indiana did a lot of things with that Gordon kid I wouldn't have done. If I was Sampson, being the person I am, if the kid committed to Illinois I would have left it alone. I remember one time when Steve Spurrier was at Florida. He came to Georgia looking at a kid that already committed to Georgia. The student told Spurrier he was going to Georgia and they left the kid alone," said Wheeler.
"The fans have to be honest right now. The talent level is not where it once was. If I were Coach Weber and I was recruiting kids I would tell them about the success we had in 2005 and how those kids are in the NBA. Illinois is a great basketball school with great coaches. They will be fine," Wheeler stated.
Wheeler said he's watched Veal play a little but he's been hurt most of the season with a bad ankle. He's averaging a double-double. He's still getting some interest from the Illini; however teams like Clemson and Georgia are taking more notice of his skills.
For those that think Weber and his staff are sleeping on the recruiting trail – you're wrong. Wheeler knows how hard they are going after kids. "Weber is a good person and he's a great coach. They will be fine once they get more players to go along with some of the kids they have coming in."
We'll pay close attention to Toby's injury and his recruitment as his season goes here at InsideIllini.com.