Crandall Head was ranked one of the top ten players in the country as a sophomore. He exploded on the scene at the Shootout At The Hall in December of 2007, impressing everyone with his extraordinary leaping ability and overall dynamism on the court.
He always wanted to follow his brother's footsteps to Illinois, so he committed early. On Thursday, he finally gets to make that commitment official.
"Yeah, it's been a long time. It's a lot of pressure off my back."
The 6'-3" guard has encountered hardships since his commitment. Transferring from Rich South to Chicago Crane Tech as a junior, he seemed to lose focus as his team struggled. Choosing to sit out part of the AAU season, he saw his rankings drop precipitously.
This past July, Head seemed to have regained his love of basketball and began showing his skills with the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team. But a torn knee ligament ended his summer prematurely and is forcing him to miss his entire senior season. He describes how it happened.
"I was in Vegas. I went in for a layup and came down wrong. I didn't get a chance to showcase my skills, but I wish I could've."
Even if he had been healthy throughout the summer AAU season, the loaded Fire team lacked teamwork. Everyone was a top-level player and wanted to impress the college coaches and talent evaluators. The limelight had to be shared.
"Everybody wanted to shoot, so if you get it, you've got to try to put it up."
Head was still hobbling on crutches when he took his official visit to Illinois in October.
"It's getting better. I've just been going to therapy. I get off the crutches next week."
It is difficult for anyone to go through the long recovery process and painful therapy to get back to full strength. It is even more excruciating when you are an elite level athlete who cannot play the game you love.
"It's frustrating to miss my senior season. I just have to get better. They said it will be about three months since the surgery before I can begin running."
Now back at Rich South, Head realizes some benefits to the enforced layoff.
"It gives me more time to work and get my grades good. I'm just watching a lot of basketball, trying to get better by watching."
"Jereme is a great player, a great scorer and whatever. Meyers still needs some work, but he'll be a pretty good big man. I'm pretty excited."
As a group, they have high aspirations. Luther Head, now with the Indiana Pacers, helped the 2004-2005 Illini team to the NCAA Championship game. His brother wants to go one step beyond that. He knows it will require hard work.
"We want to get Illinois back to the way it was when my brother was there. Try to get back to that level. We're gonna have to fight for every possession."
Head attended the Quincy University exhibition game last Sunday, and he hopes to come back for several more. He has just one more year to wait before his dream of playing for the Fighting Illini is realized.