Illini Recruiting Dynamic Guard Duo

The Fighting Illini basketball coaches are working feverishly to secure commitments from top players in the class of 2011. They already have point guard Tracy Abrams in the fold, and they are looking for another guard to match up with him. Bradley Beal and Chasson Randle appear at this time to be at or near the top of that list.

Illinois is looking to sign two guards in the class of 2011. The big prize is already committed. Point guard Tracy Abrams is a special talent who can both score and set up teammates for easy buckets.

Basketball expert Joe Henricksen, author of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, ranks Abrams as his number one prospect in Illinois for the class of 2011, ahead of impressive talents Andre Henley, Wayne Blackshear, Mike Shaw, Sam Thompson and Chasson Randle.

"I make note whenever I do those rankings there's a slim difference between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, maybe even 6," Henricksen explains. "There's not a big separation between those guys. I don't want to say anyone is no risk, but I say he (Abrams) is less of a risk than the other kids.

"One, he just competes. He gets after it, probably moreso than any other player in that top five. He brings more toughness. He'll defend you 90 feet and get after it. The other thing is, people don't realize what a special athlete he is. He has a lot of upside.

"And then production. He's a little more productive than the other top players so far. So you combine that production with the toughness and competitiveness he brings, and that's why he separates somewhat from those other guys."

Abrams is still extremely young, with two more high school seasons yet to go at Chicago Mt. Carmel. But he made a name for himself as a true freshman during the Illinois state tournament according to Henricksen.

"As a freshman, he was just so dynamic. I saw a couple games where he was the best player on the floor as a freshman. That's the kind of moxey he has, the intangibles he brings everytime he steps on the floor. Which again is why I have him slightly above those other guys."

Good point guard play requires many years of experience. It is the most complicated and difficult position on the floor. Many play it, but few master it. Abrams still has much to learn but plenty of time to learn it. His outside shooting is still a work in progress.

"As he improves as a shooter, that's when he will become more of a scoring point guard. He's still learning the nuances of being the point guard. He's a point guard, but he's still adjusting and learning the game. And while still being a big-time scorer.

"Improvements in shooting slowly takes place. We've seen that with Deron Williams from his freshman year on. We saw Chester Frazier going from being a horrible shooter as a freshman to being an average shooter as a senior.

"I think that part of his game will come along. His mechanics aren't too bad, so that will help him. Once he becomes a consistent shooter, he will be an absolutely devastating offensive threat from that point guard position.

"He's tremendous along the baseline, he's got a great burst off the wing, he's terrific in transition, getting to the basket and finishing around the rim."

Abrams would be especially effective at Illinois if he had a big-time shooter playing adjacent to him. Bradley Beal and Randle were both named recently to the 2009-2010 USA Basketball Men's Developmental 16U National Team that will be playing in Argentina later this summer. They are both considering the Illini.

St. Louis Chaminade's Beal is a dynamic future All-American with classic scoring potential. Illinois has been recruiting him for a long time already, and he is considering the UI. Other sources insist he is either Florida or Kansas bound, but Henricksen understands why the Illini are still working hard on him.

"Illinois obviously wants him. I'm sure if everything went perfect for them, Bradley Beal would be the guy. So, we'll see how that pans out. It's gonna be a war to get him. I've seen Beal much less than the Illinois kids, but I'd take Beal in a heartbeat over Chasson Randle, A.J. (Whitney Young's Anthony Johnson) or any other player in the state of Illinois."

If Beal is a pipedream, the Illini still have a quality alternative in Randle. The Rock Island star is a highly intelligent, versatile guard with excellent all-around skills. He seems to avoid the spotlight, preferring to lead quietly from the background. But he will be a four-year glue guy on a high major college basketball team.

"He kind of blends in a little bit, which sometimes you don't always want. But he can do so many things for you. I think he's gonna be a really nice four year college basketball player. I think you can win with Chasson Randle as long as you surround him with some upper level talent.

"I don't see greatness, I don't see stardom. But there's no question he's a high major player. You need guys like him. He can bring so much to the table. He's got to get physically stronger. But he's a little more athletic than people give him credit for.

"He can play the two, he can play the point a little bit. He sees the floor and makes people around him better. He's unselfish. He's got to get better on his perimeter shot and be more consistent with it. He's got a nice little midrange game, but he needs to become a more consistent three point shooter.

"He's an absolutely terrific kid, A+ quality. That goes a long way. Chasson does a lot of things good, he just doesn't stand out in any one area. I think he is a very good high major prospect and a definite top 100 type of talent."

If the Illini can add Abrams and either Beal or Randle to their team two years hence, they would field a talented and deep squad that would have outstanding potential for a run at a Big Ten Championship and Final Four berth.

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