Off to an outstanding recruiting start in the class of 2011 with in-staters Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu, Bruce Weber and the rest of the Illinois staff are looking to add to their stable of talent. During January, they spent some time getting to know the game of Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton junior forward Julian Royal.
A 6-foot-8 frontcourt player who can play around the rim or facing the hoop, Royal has been well known since before he even started high school. Despite that, expectations haven't gotten the best of him and he's been able to stay the course as he works on his game and navigates the recruiting waters.
"It's been good," said Royal of the early attention. "It never got to my head or anything like that so I was able to keep things in perspective when I started out in high school."
Known for his overall skill level, Royal has excellent footwork in the post, good hands and is quick around the rim. Matched up with bigger guys, he can extend his game to the perimeter and make shots or exploit his quickness with one and two dribble drives.
But, as he's gotten older he's looked to expand his game even more.
"Over the years I've gotten a lot faster and stronger," said Royal. "I'm working on trying to create shots more, guard perimeter players outside and work on more of my handle."
Some who have watched Royal describe him as a tweener in that it's tough to classify him as either a small or power forward. As far as he's concerned, it doesn't matter and there seem to be plenty of schools who have taken early notice.
"It doesn't really matter to me. I can play inside or outside, I just want to play in college," Royal told Inside Illini. "I've heard from schools like Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Florida and Illinois."
Despite the heavy early interest, Royal avoids talking about specific schools as best he can and says that it's still way too early for him to start designating favorites.
"I'm really just in the beginning stages so everybody is about equal," said Royal. "I try not to get caught up into talking about one school or another because it's still so early."
Finally, when Royal says that it's early he isn't kidding. He's committed to focusing on his junior season of high school ball and says that he won't be signing until the spring of his senior year. Taking things a step further, he's letting his parents do the heavy lifting for now as he looks to build his game and profile.
"I don't tend to talk to too many coaches on the phone," said Royal. "My parents will do a lot of talking to the coaches. If I'm around they'll give me the phone and I'll talk to the coaches or whatever. But, I really don't do it a lot."