Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our new recruit wears glasses - and other reasons to be excited about Illini Basketball

The Illini received a verbal commitment from 6-9 junior Nnana Egwa this past week, adding another recruit to the 2011 class that already contains standout point guard Tracy Abrams. All I have to say is that he had better be wearing the specs when he comes to the U of I. Also, I'm excited to have an Illini player whose name will constantly be butchered by announcers for the first time since Krupalija (unless you count the whole deron, de-Ron thing we went through with D-Will).

According to an article at IlliniHQ, Nigerian Milhouse has only been playing basketball for two and a half years, so obviously he is very raw, and is more of a 'project'. It isn't a bad thing to take a chance some recruits like Egwa because of the established stars we have on the way in Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head.

Recruiting finally seems to have picked up for the first time ever under Bruce Weber. This year, the Illini have the an Illinois Mr. Basketball for on their roster in freshman Brandon Paul, for the first time since Dee Brown. From 1994 to 2002, every Mr. Basketball in Illinois that played college basketball came to the U of I. That covers from Jerrod Gee in '94 to Dee Brown in '02. In that stretch there were several that never played college ball and went directly to the NBA, such as Kevin Garnett, Eddy Curry, and Darius Milles, and many great Illini players like Frankie Williams, Brian Cook, and Serg McClain.

The point is that Illinois dominated state recruiting in that time period. This recruiting dominance directly corresponded to the modern Golden Era of Illini Basketball, 1999-2005, where the Illini went 163-43, and won four Big Ten championships, culminating in the national champion runner-ups of 05. Unfortunately, since then the talent has been few and far between.

Since 2003, the start of the downturn, here are the classes. 2003 - Brian Randle, Rich McBride, Warren Carter - it is easy to forget that Charlie Villanueva was once a part of this class until Self left for Kansas. 2004 - Shaun Pruitt (Weber's first recruit, and perhaps the symbol for all that has gone wrong in recent years, but that is another post for another time) and Calvin Brock. 2005 - CJ Jackson, Jamar Smith, Chester Frazier. 2006 - Brian Carwell, Richard Semrau, I just threw up in my mouth. Finally it starts to turn in 2007 when we land McCamey, Mike Davis, and Mike Tisdale.

Notice from 2003-2006 there is almost nothing there. Chester had a good senior season, and Warren was a nice player, but you can clearly see the poo poo platter that has been the cause of the recent failings of the Illini program.

The good news is that is appears that horrible recruiting classes are the thing of the past for the Illini. Maybe it took Weber a few years to get the hang of the whole 'get good players to come play for you' thing. Or maybe Jerrance Howard, who became an assistant in 2007, has the magic touch with recruits, much like his mentor Bill Self. Whatever the reason, the tide appears to have turned back in the favor of the Illini. With highly touted freshman like Paul, and DJ Richardson and top shelf talent on the way with Richmond, Head, and Abrams, and now with a high potential player like Glasses Chukwudebe, it is time to embrace the future of Illini basketball.

No comments:

Post a Comment

[Valid Atom 1.0]