Dan Ruffin is the head coach for Peoria High, and the coach of Class of 2009 Illinois verbal commitment, D.J. Richardson, a 6-3 guard that has elevated his game to another level.
Ruffin can definitely see a change in his star player when it comes to basketball this year, "D.J. has grown up a lot, he's maturing everyday and he's now learning what good shots are and getting his teammates involved more. It's easy for a player like him to become frustrated with how people play him, there's more attention to him now when he's playing, from opposing teams, but he looks more relaxed out there," said Ruffin.
So many times people forget about the kind of kids these kids are, "D.J.'s a good one, he's a typical high school kid that treats everyone the same and he doesn't let success get to him at all," Ruffin said.
On the recruiting front, Ruffin noted that all the colleges stopping by to see D.J., when he was uncommitted, was a good thing, "I liked that, what coach wouldn't. It brought a lot of exposure to my program and a lot more of my kids were able to be seen." However, Ruffin also saw the relief D.J. felt once he made his decision public. "I'm sure it was a relief for D.J. because it was becoming so hectic at times, but now he's committed and he can just play," said Ruffin.
We asked Ruffin how much of a factor did new Assistant Coach Jerrance Howard play in the decision. "Jerrance is a Peoria guy, he will always have a shot at any of our kids. But just because he's there doesn't mean every kid will go to Illinois. We look at all the situations with our kids. If they go there, will they be able to contribute, and have bright futures? So yes, it's nice having him there at Illinois but we want to make sure it's the best situation for our kids and they will have the chance to do what's best for them," added Ruffin.
Richardson is a part of a great recent recruiting run by Bruce Weber. And after watching all the newcomers perform on the court, it is clear the talent level at Illinois will be upgraded soon, along with the expectations for success. While we should be careful not to compare teams, like the 1989 Illini vs. the 2004 team, but I can assure you this, when these kids all take the floor together, with all the young talent that's there right now, Illinois will be back at near the top of the Big Ten standings. Of course, no one can predict the future and how many wins a team will have, just look at this years Illinois football team, but the future of Illinois basketball is undoubtedly bright, thanks in large part to D.J. leading the charge for the Class of 2009.