It seems like it's been a long time coming, almost too long if you're an Illini fan, but signing day is finally here. Emerging as one of the clear winners of the early period are Bruce Weber and the Illinois program.
After obsessing and discussing the potential impact of guys like Meyers Leonard, Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head for a few years, Illini fans across the state and country can rejoice that the trio are finally official members of the Illinois family.
At Inside Illini, we've been discussing and breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Leonard, head and Richmond for quite some time. Rather than rehash what we've read and discussed several times, we reached out to three of the recruiting world's top talent evaluators -- Scout.com's Dave Telep and Evan Daniels and Prepstars.com/USA Today's Rob Harrington -- to get their take on the class.
Daniels- "Much like Richmond, when Head brings it he's tough to stop. His offensive package is pretty tough to stop and he should be a guy that makes an impact early on at Illinois if he buys in."
Harrington- "Head is the wildcard in this group. He has top-30 ability but hasn't consistently produced at that level. I found myself saying the same thing about Evan Turner when he was in high school and now he's turning in triple doubles at Ohio State. Hopefully, Head will develop in much the same way.
Telep- "Leonard reminds me a bit of Cole Aldrich in high school from the standpoint that you knew his best ball was going to come in college. With Meyers, once he arrives on campus and gets pushed on a daily basis, I think he's going to respond."
Daniels- "You won't find many guys that like Leonard as much as me. He's an athletic big man that is willing to run, has good hands and is active blocking shots in the paint."
Harrington- "Leonard is widely underappreciated and in terms of body type reminds me of the Birdman, Chris Anderson, from Denver. He's long and mobile and also quite skilled, and only a woeful lack of muscle holds him back at this point."
Telep- "To me, Jereme has Top 10 talent. I think he's going to have a big senior season. Really, the lone thing he's missing is a consistent approach to the game."
Daniels- "He's a guy with elite level talent. Now he doesn't always show that, but he's loaded with ability and has a great frame for a wing. He'll be a high level scorer in the Big Ten."
Harrington- "Richmond is one of my pet players in this class and someone who could become a long-term starter in the NBA. The knocks on him for years have been consistency, but I thought he showed progress along those lines during the summer. Given that he's such a versatile scorer and has such an advanced post game for a wing, he should flourish in an offensive system that will create a lot of different situations for him to exploit. If he commits himself to the idea that he can set himself up first by being aggressive, that will open up opportunities for him to showcase his outstanding passing skills."