Cosby To Illinois April 14, 2013
Sam McLaurin called Scott Drew. Maverick Morgan called Bo Ryan. Kendrick Nunn called Buzz Williams. And now Aaron Cosby called Frank Haith.
All of them delivered the same message: “I know I SAID I was coming to visit, but I’ve found a home at Illinois.” Visit cancelled. Sorry coaches – you don’t even get a shot. Home is where the Groce is.
We’ll get to Cosby in a bit. I’m excited about the pudding pops jokes as well. But first, I want to look at John Groce’s first year. His first recruiting year.
Seven times in 12 months, John Groce had a kid on campus with more visits scheduled. Four of those seven times, the kid verballed to Illinois and cancelled his other visits. One time that kid took another visit and then verballed to Illinois. And twice the kids went elsewhere. That’s… that’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Hold on. I’m watching this.
In May, Sam McLaurin was headed to Baylor after his Illinois visit. He called Scott Drew and told him he wasn’t coming – he’d committed to John Groce and Illinois. In June, Maverick Morgan was headed to Wisconsin the day after his Illinois visit. He called Bo Ryan and told him he wasn’t coming – he’d committed to John Groce and Illinois. In September, Kendrick Nunn was headed to Marquette the weekend after his Illinois visit. He called Buzz Williams and told him he wasn’t coming – he’d committed to John Groce and Illinois.
And then there’s Aaron Cosby. The Seton Hall guard, he of 40% shooting from three as a sophomore, announced he was transferring. Coaches across the country contacted him about the opportunity at their school, and he decided to have in-home visits with five of them: Scott Drew from Baylor, Frank Haith from Missouri, Mark Gottfried from NC State, some guy named Bruce Weber from Kansas State, and John Groce from Illinois. After those visits, he decided two visit two campuses: Illinois and Missouri. Illinois would be first, from April 11-13, and then Missouri from the 13th to the 15th. He’d then make his decision next week.
And of course he never made it across the Mississippi River. After two days on campus, on Friday night, he announced he was canceling his Missouri visit and choosing Illinois.
This is huge for us. A friend of mine made a good point (this is the friend who has the @UIHoopsRecruits twitter account – you should follow him if you’re not already). He said that he views Cosby like a top-25 2014 recruit who will leave for the NBA after two years. It’s always a risk taking two-and-done kids – with Meyers Leonard we got his starting-to-break-out sophomore campaign and then he was gone.
His point: with Cosby, we get a kid who just averaged 13.4 points in Big East play last year. And can stroke it from deep. And after a year sitting out, we’ll get two years from him. The 13 points per game he puts up as a junior and the 15 ppg as a senior will equal that of, say, a top-25 shooting guard in the 2014 class who heads to the NBA after two seasons.
In college basketball terms, a transfer like this is pure gold. A kid who proved he can score against Louisville and Georgetown and Syracuse – there are no “will he adjust to the college game?” concerns, nor are there any of the “can he handle Big Ten competition?” concerns that come with a kid who transfers from a mid-major. This is a kid who has proven he can efficiently score against top competition and now wants to climb to a better team and make the tournament.
And he picked Illinois. Over Missouri. (And Bruce Weber).
Will John Groce land every recruit that arrives on campus? No. There are no coaches that do. Even Coach K only lands maybe half the kids he gets on campus. A .400 average would be fantastic. So yes, we’re going to miss on kids. And Groce has already missed on three huge ones. Demetrius Jackson left his Illinois visit without verballing, visited Notre Dame, and picked them. Xavier Rathan-Mayes left his Illinois visit without verballing and then picked Florida State. And Keita Bates-Diop, from just down the road in Bloomington-Normal, picked Ohio State before the campus visit game even got underway. Those are three big losses.
But given our history when the visit game starts – Sherron Collins with the rumored silent verbal until he visited Kansas and fell in love, Derrick Rose’s visit that felt more token than anything, Evan Turner naming us his leader but not verballing while on campus and then committing to Ohio State – what Groce has done so far is amazing.
And if the next step is landing top-25 kids this way – you’re not taking any officials anywhere else, Cliff, you belong here – well, yesterday’s small raise and one year extension for Groce won’t be enough. Mike Thomas will have to open up the secret vault under the Morrow Plots.