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Signing Day Thoughts November 14, 2012

I do most of my writing in this space between 9:00 pm and 1:00 am. (Hurray! Another “how the sausage is made” post!) My wife and kids go to sleep around 9:00, and then it’s Blog Time. Many times I wait until the next morning to review what I’ve written before publishing it. Sometimes I edit. Sometimes I trash it. Nearly every time I’m embarrassed by something I wrote that, at the time, I thought was funny.

Because my window during the week is 3-4 late-night hours, and because most Illini news happens while the sun is shining, I always struggle with writing about things that feel like yesterday’s news. Like tonight, for example. I want to write about this signing class, but if you’re like me, you already read 7 articles about this class today. You know all of their middle names. You have their stats memorized. You know the name of the condition Malcolm Hill was hospitalized for this summer. What could I tell you that you don’t already know?

The only way to rid myself of this frustration, of course, is to write about things as they happen during the day. But I also like keeping my job and feeding my children. So 9:00 to 1:00 each night is all I can give right now. Some day, when ALE reaches Total Illini Internet Domination, maybe you’ll get seven posts per day. But for now, it’s Late Night With Robert.

Three random thoughts on the 2013 Illini Basketball signing class:

ALE Recruiting Website Team Ranking Consensus

I shall do as the RSCI does in determining just where this class ranks nationally. Here’s the numbers:

Rivals: 10th
Scout: 18th
ESPN: 23rd
CBS Sports: 16th

10 + 18 + 23 + 16 = 67
67 / 4 = 16.75
16.75 rounded up = 17

Through the wonders of math, John Groce brought in the 17th best recruiting class in the country this year. With 7 months to work with and his lead recruiting assistant leaving after only two months, that’s ridiculously impressive.

Will it bring us back to the Dee/Deron/Augie days? No (although he got close to that with Demetrius Jackson and Xavier Rathan-Mayes). But for a first class, it’s really, really good.

Illini recruiting classes with three consensus top-100 players since the Recruiting Services Consensus Index was put together in 1998.

2002: Dee Brown, Deron Williams, James Augustine, Aaron Spears
2010: Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard, Crandall Head
2011: Mike Shaw, Tracy Abrams, Myke Henry, Nnanna Egwu
2013: Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill, Austin Colbert

The next step for John Groce: pulling in top-50 RSCI players. Weber’s 2011 class and Groce’s 2013 class were very solid, but they lack the top-end talents like Marcus Griffin, Frank Williams, and Brian Cook. This is a great start, but Groce really needs a top-25 kid to add to the mix with our one 2014 scholarship. OHAI, KEITA BATES-DIOP, #20 PLAYER IN 2014 AND ONLY 50 MILES AWAY FROM CAMPUS.

One more thing. On paper, this recruiting class is better than Bill Self’s first class at Illinois. And it’s better than Bruce Weber’s first class at Illinois. And Bruce Weber’s second class at Illinois. And Bruce Weber’s third class at Illinois. And Bruce Weber’s fourth class at Illinois. And Bruce Weber’s fifth class at Illinois.

Restarting Five

That’s a working title. But as John Groce RESTARTS our program, he chose to fill out his first class with an entire team. Jaylon Tate is a pure point guard, Kendrick Nunn a shooting guard with the emphasis on shooting, Malcolm Hill a wing guard with the emphasis on wing, Austin Colbert an up-and-down-the-floor four, and Maverick Morgan a space eater in the middle.

How does that fit with next year’s roster? Well, I see the starters being Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Myke Henry, and Nnanna Egwu. So Colbert and Morgan will come in and immediately compete with Mike Shaw and Ibby Djimde for backup frontcourt minutes. And I think Kendrick Nunn is probably the guy that fits best with that backcourt, as none of those three starters are known as shooters. I think Nunn and Malcolm Hill will be able to find minutes if they can score. And with only one point guard on the roster in Abrams, Jaylon Tate has a chance to play right away as well.

So I don’t see any redshirts in this Restarting Five. Which means there’s a chance that by the time they’re all seniors, they’ll be our starting five.

But In 2015…

At some point, John Groce is going to need to get our class balance back on track. The current roster consists of four seniors, one (redshirt) junior, five sophomores, and one (redshirt) freshmen (plus walkon Mike LaTulip). So after bringing in five in this class, we’ll have one senior, six juniors (with Rice is added in), one sophomore, and these five freshmen. If that doesn’t change, we’ll just keep getting sick on this roller coaster. Class of one in 2014. Then six in 2015. Then one again in 2016.

For the most part, this problem will take care of itself. There will be attrition (there’s always attrition), and we’ll stack those scholarships in the empty classes. We won’t be on the roller coaster forever.

But this class imbalance reveals one other thing. And since I like to exaggerate, here goes:

The 2015 Illini recruiting class is the most important basketball recruiting class since the 1994 post-probation recruiting class. This year was a late start (and Groce still did an outstanding job). Year number 2 is usually when a coach brings in his statement class, but we only have one available scholarship for the 2014 class. So 2015 it is. Bold prediction just because ILLINI BASKETBALL IS FUN AGAIN:

Top-5 class nationally in 2015, headlined by top-10, best-Illini-recruit-since-Deon-Thomas Charles Matthews. Mark it down. In ink.

PittsburghNellie November 15th, 2012

I hope Latulip shows he can backup Abrams next year so Tate can redshirt and wear #23 his senior year. Mike’s playing well right now, too. If he came in as a 3 star, he’d be meeting expectations. I really hope he doesn’t transfer, because I think he’d absolutely ball out for a mid major and he can really help us in a year or two.
I love that you’re already talking about 2015, because I’ve already been told to calm down for doing that today.

Joe John November 15th, 2012

We could all be dead by 2015.

Preparation H November 15th, 2012

Ha Ha, JJ !!
You’re right, we could be dead.
And you’ve confirmed what I always thought. There must be absolutely NOTHING in your life to look forward to.
I am just giddy, delighted with JG right now and as excited as I am today, I’m even more excited about the future. Robert said it correctly, ILLINI BASKETBALL IS FUN AGAIN !!. And it will become even more fun. What is wrong with looking forward to that?
Nuthin. Absolutely nuthin. Say it again !

ILLINI08 November 15th, 2012

Joe John is the hideous love spawn of Debbie downer and negative Nancy. Go away.

GrogsBBQPepperoni November 15th, 2012

Joe John, you simply must change your logged in name to ‘Curmudgeon’.

Groundhogday November 15th, 2012

I’m betting we add 2-3 players in the 2014 class. Ibby and/or Shaw will transfer as neither are very good fits for Groce’s system.

ILLfan November 15th, 2012

What’s the deal with Mike Shaw? This guy was supposed to be a big time player. I realize he might not be the best fit for Groce’s system, but a lot of these guys aren’t. I don’t understand what the issue has been with Shaw, a guy we were all really excited to land.

illiniranger November 15th, 2012

this is a very good class. not great, but solid. if Groce continues to recruit like this we will be back in the thick of the B1G race before long.
if he recruits better (the 5 Stars we just missed on) we can be in the national title conversation.
regardless, the man will need time. everything we have seen so far is encouraging.

ATOillini November 15th, 2012

The greatest thing about this class is the new attitude expressed by our “man in the middle”. Rock on M Squared!