Jalen James To Illinois June 23, 2011
A solid start.
That’s the box I’m going to put this Jalen James commitment in. We needed a point guard, and we needed to get the ball rolling with the 2013 class, and we accomplished both.
James is no slouch, mind you – Rivals has him as a 4-star and ranks him #78 in their 2013 rankings. A point guard ranked in the 70′s – that’s McCamey-land. But as poor as the 2012 class in Illinois appears to be, the 2013 class is just the opposite. No less than 5 players from Illinois in the top 40 in Rivals’ current rankings, with Jabari Parker and Tommy Hamilton leading the way. Getting top-100 guys is great – getting top-40 guys is what sends you deep into the tournament.
Which is why I’m quantifying this as a solid start. No matter what, the 2013 recruiting class had to have a point guard, and that’s done. But there’s much more work to do if we want to catch recruiting machines like Thad Matta (and, of late, Coach Clappy at IU).
So that’s where I see this commitment. If we can surround James with a Tommy Hamilton and a Malcolm Hill, we’re continuing our climb back towards deep tournament runs. If James gets no more (talented) help in this class, we’ll fall further behind.
Man, I’m being completely unfair, aren’t I? This kid verbals to his dream school an hour after getting an offer, and here I am, looking past him already, pounding my fist on the table and demanding McDonald’s All Americans. Here’s a recruit that might be one of the top-10 players that Bruce Weber has brought in during his 8-going-on-9 years in Champaign (nine years? really?), and I’m all “that’s nice, but…” What is wrong with me?
Don’t answer that. I know what it is. It’s 70 losses in the last 5 seasons. It’s 4 home losses from 1999/2000 to 2005/2006… and then 20 home losses since. It’s watching Ohio State ascend to the throne that’s rightfully ours.
So I apologize, Mr. James. I shouldn’t let my basketball petulance get in the way of your big day. Welcome to the orange and blue. May you be a key piece to the teams that return Illini basketball to its rightful place at the top.
And please bring Tommy Hamilton with you.
One more thing. This commitment makes me feel old. I don’t know why, but the fact that James will arrive on campus after DJ and BP3 graduate makes me think it’s 2019 for some reason. After DJ is gone? I swear he’s still a freshman.
And this makes me feel older. I remember specific players from the early 80′s, but my first true memory of an Illini basketball game was the Braggin’ Rights game in 1983. Bruce Douglas, Efrem Winters, Big George Montgomery, Doug Altenberger – that team. That was 1983. When Jalen James puts on the Orange and Blue and takes on Missouri in St. Louis as a freshman, it will be 30 years after the Douglas/Altenberger/Winters team. Thirty years. I need a moment.
And a national championship.