I’m really not sure how to behave at this point. If you just take the last five top-100 players that John Groce has landed – Quentin Snider, Kendrick Nunn, Leron Black, Malcolm Hill, and now DJ Williams – and you add spare parts from the basketball junkyard, you have a top-20 team in 2016. Of course, we have much more than just spare parts laying around, but that’s not even my point right now.
What John Groce is doing – the way this thing is shaping up – almost frightens me. I’ve been so comfortable living in this “don’t get excited, wait for the other shoe to drop” cave since 2007 or so that I don’t even know how to behave.
Like this – how do I handle this: It’s quite possible that for the other two scholarships in 2015 and the one scholarship in 2016, we slow play the 4-star kids and only chase 5-star McDonalds All-American types. What? I mean, what am I supposed to do with that?
OK, let’s back up. I need to pace my breathing. As we’ve done with the last few recruits, let’s do our own RSCI ranking because the RSCI for DJ Williams’ class won’t be out for another 12 months. Here’s Williams’ ranking on the main four services:
Average ranking: #38
So using that ranking, here’s John Groce’s recruits in a list of all of our consensus top-100 recruits in the last 18 recruiting classes:
#19 Dee Brown
#20 Brian Cook
#21 Frank Williams
#24 Jereme Richmond
#28 Richard McBride
#29 Meyers Leonard
#33 Quentin Snider
#35 DJ Richardson
#36 Alex Legion
#38 DJ Williams
#40 Leron Black
#48 Deron Williams
#49 Brandon Paul
#49 Brian Carlwell
#53 Brian Randle
#57 Kendrick Nunn
#62 Roger Powell
#65 Mike Shaw
#66 Myke Henry
#69 Tracy Abrams
#70 Malcolm Hill
#71 Demitri McCamey
#76 Crandall Head
#77 Shaun Pruitt
#77 Nick Smith
#78 James Augustine
#78 Nnanna Egwu
#86 Aaron Spears
I really think we need to acknowledge what John Groce is doing right now. Let’s look at all of our coaches since the RSCI began. It’s difficult to do this for Lon Kruger, as the RSCI began in 1998 so he won’t get credit for a top-25 kid like Marcus Griffin or a top-50 kid like Sergio. But here’s what the numbers say:
3 years, 3 RSCI recruits, average ranking #34
3 years, 7 RSCI recruits (2.3 per year), average ranking #55
9 years, 13 RSCI recruits (1.4 per year), average ranking #56
The stunning thing about this list? Pruitt, McCamey, Paul, and Richardson all finished their careers as Illini, and Leonard declared early, but that’s it. Abrams and Egwu are still on the team, and everyone else left.
DJ Williams #38
2+ years, 5 RSCI recruits (2.5 per year), average ranking #48.
Thinking about it, Hill was actually a Weber recruit before he was a Groce recruit. So that would boost Weber’s total to 1.5 per year… but also mean that the ranked kids that John Groce has brought in average around #41. Six top-sixty kids in nine years for Bruce Weber, and now four for John Groce in the last 14 months.
Yep, there it is. All of this research and I’ve found a stat to settle on. In 108 months as the head basketball coach, Bruce Weber brought in six top-60 recruits. And three of them (Jereme Richmond, Alex Legion, and Brian Carlwell) played only a short time before leaving. Starting with Kendrick Nunn in September of 2012 and running through DJ Williams today, John Groce has brought in four top-60 recruits in 14 months.
And he’s not done. There’s some kid who is supposed to announce his college choice on November 15th – Biff Alexandria or something like that – and of course there’s top-100 guys in the 2015 class like Aaron Jordan who seem to be leaning towards Illinois. But what do we do with that when 5-star Carlton Bragg and 5-star Charles Matthews and 5-star Elijah Thomas and 5-star Diamond Stone all seem to have legitimate interest in Illinois? Oh, and I forgot to mention that one of the top 5 players in the 2016 class, Jayson Tatum, was on campus last weekend.
*smacks self in face, John L. Smith-style*
I really don’t know how to handle that. I can’t process it. I have two goals – see an Illini Rose Bowl win, see an Illini basketball national championship – and one of them just started to feel legitimately possible. Add a Cliff or a Carlton Bragg or a Jayson Tatum and we can start legitimately thinking about it.
OK, I’m almost finished with this post and I haven’t even talked about Williams. DJ Williams is a 4-star wing forward from Simeon (yes, that Simeon). You know what? This whole post has been so kool-aid that I need to play the other side for a bit. Here’s an honest evaluation of what I see in Williams:
He’s an athlete and he’s tall and he’s lanky and he fits the mold of a dominating college wing forward. But all of that is potential, and sometimes, ranked guys who can jump out of the gym don’t pan out. Mike Shaw was supposed to be an athletic 3/4 in college, and he just never panned out. Sometimes you recruit an athlete like this and they never develop basketball skills. Sometimes they become Evan Turner.
So if I’m honest, Williams (and even Leron Black) are somewhat project recruits. It’s their size, long arms, and athleticism that has them ranked this highly. But sometimes they never pan out. Which is why you should recruit two of them. Oh hey look at that. (Truth be told, I think Black might be more on the 4 side of 3/4 and Williams on the 3 side, but that just makes it even better).
OK, Tom Cruises. I’ll say it – Tom Cruises are out of control. I set up this scale of 1-5, but I really didn’t want it to be like star ratings. Star ratings have become this thing where 5% get five stars, 10% get four stars, and then 75% get three stars with only the “nobody has ever heard of them” kids getting two stars. And there are never one-star recruits.
I wanted Tom Cruises to be different. Only the once-in-a-generation elite get 5 Tom Cruises. One-offer kids without much good looking film get one Tom Cruise. Everyone else is balanced in between.
And then I went and gave Leron Black 4.5 Tom Cruises, which meant when we landed someone a little better (Quentin Snider) I had to give him 4.71 Tom Cruises, which means the whole system is off. So DJ Williams will be an unfortunate correction. Even though he’s right there with Snider and Black, he is going to get four Tom Cruises. Because if Cliff picks us in 10 days, I need that five Tom Cruise ranking to stand out like it should. Because that one would basically go to 11.
DJ Williams to Illinois. A solid and respectable four Tom Cruises.