It's hard to win big in March without key recruiting victories in the summer months. But Illinois coach John Groce said the chance to make a big recruiting splash with the class of 2013 was "50-50 ball.''
CHAMPAIGN -- It's hard to win big in March without key recruiting victories in the summer months.
But Illinois coach John Groce said the chance to make a big recruiting splash with the class of 2013 was "50-50 ball.''
"It's going to be difficult for sure,'' Groce said. "I like challenges. We're going to get some quality players. Is it a smaller, select pool because we got (the job) when we did? Sure. There are some kids who have been recruited and narrowed their lists down before I got up there for the press conference.''
Landing Chicago Simeon star Jabari Parker, the Sports Illustrated cover story who is the nation's top ranked recruit in the class heading into his senior season, became a long shot for the Illini after years of mediocre play. Groce's chances of securing a commitment from Parker this late in the game are considered slim at best.
The goal for the Illini, Groce said, is building the roster by adding key transfers and securing a solid core from the class of 2013, then getting to work on 2014 and 2015 talent.
Groce comes off as confident, perhaps because he was named national recruiter of the year in 2006 by Rivals.com when he was an Ohio State assistant. He also talks about sticking to his plan after hitting seven AAU tournaments in two weekends during the spring evaluation period.
Illinois already grabbed a key oral commitment from Belleville East small forward Malcolm Hill, who is ranked No. 52 nationally by Rivals heading into his senior year. Illinois also has a commitment from point guard Jalen James of Chicago. But the Illini are also chasing point guard Demetrius Jackson, ranked No. 61 nationally in the 2013 class, from Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian High School.
A group that would include Hill and Jackson would be a solid start, recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen said.
"It will be important for them to use the resources they already have in place to secure a higher profile out-of-state kid, then try to add at least one really good piece from the state to join Malcolm Hill, whether that be (Simeon's) Kendrick Nunn or (Chicago De La Salle's) Gavin Schilling,'' Henricksen said.
Landing transfers Rayvonte Rice from Drake and Sam McLaurin from Coastal Carolina helped the Illini in the short term, providing a window for Illinois recruiters to look further down the road, Groce said.
"We've got a lot of scholarships in the 2012 and 13 classes,'' Groce said. "We're trying to get some of those things addressed. We've got two of the three filled. We're still working on the third one.
"(The transfers) not only help us with our team but also help us get out front on the 2014 and 2015 classes, where it's a fair fist fight. Right now, we're behind on 2012 and 2013. These guys have been recruited for two years. I wanted to get what we need to get in 2012 and 2013, then do a good job starting to address 2014 and 2015.''
McLaurin, a senior eligible immediately, filled a need inside while Rice will become eligible as a junior in 2013-14 after the graduation of guards Illini D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul.
Recruiting insiders said Illinois, Notre Dame and Purdue are the key players in the recruitment of Nic Moore, the former Illinois State guard who will transfer.
"It's more a fit thing,'' Groce said. "Sam was a good fit for us, because he'll make us better now. We're losing Richardson and Paul after a year, and we have a wing (Rice) sitting out that averaged 17 a game, that's going to practice 100 times, lift, do skill work, get the transition phase down and be ready to go.
"We looked at every possibility. It's not if he's a fifth-year guy, high school or juco. We felt Sam and Rayvonte fit.''
According to Groce, they also fit a need and created a window of opportunity to get Illini recruiters in a fair fight.
If the Illini don't add another scholarship player prior to next season, Illinois would have three more scholarships available for the 2013-14 season after the commitments from Hill and James.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.
Illini short list
Some targets in the class of 2013 for Illinois basketball recruiting.
Jabari Parker/F/6-7, 215/Chicago Simeon
Kendrick Nunn/G/6-3, 175/Chicago Simeon
Demetrius Jackson/G/6-1, 179/Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian
Semi Ojeleye/F/6-6, 215/Ottawa (Kan.)
Xavier Rathan-Mayes/G/6-4, 205/Huntington Prep (W.V.)
x -- Jameel McKay/F/6-8, 205/Indian Hills CC (Iowa)
Gavin Schilling/F/6-9, 205/Chicago De La Salle
Demetrius Henry/F/6-8, 195/Orland Park (Fla.) Northeast
(x) -- Denotes junior college sophomore this fall.