- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Illinois’ two Class of 2012 recruits, Crete-Monee point guard Michael Orris and Prospect combo guard Mike LaTulip, are hopeful to be playing for the Illini next season after the announcement of new coach John Groce on Thursday.
Orris is the Illini’s lone Class of 2012 letter of intent signee. LaTulip was recruited as a preferred walk-on.
“I intend to be at Illinois next season,” Orris said. “But you still got to talk to the coach, feel around and that sort of thing. I would like to talk to him and my parents. I would just like to get to know him and build a relationship like you do any coach with the recruiting process.”
LaTulip is also optimistic, but he understands his situation can change having been offered a walk-on spot by former Illinois coach Bruce Weber.
“I obviously committed to Illinois and coach Weber’s now gone,” LaTulip said. “It’s a lot different, but at the same time I want to see what coach Groce is all about. If I like what he has to say and their plan for me, I’ll be there next year.”
“We were obviously watching it closely because it’s my future,” Orris said. “It’s a big thing. Obviously coach Weber and his staff recruited me, wanted me and believed in me and all that. With them being gone, you want to know who the next coach is going to be, but I didn’t let it consume me.”
Orris, who is more of a pure point guard, also believes Groce’s system could match his abilities.
“From what it sounds like, he’s a guards’ type of coach,” Orris said. “When he gives the reins over to the guards and gives them freedom, I think any guard would like that.”
Looking beyond the Class of 2012, Jalen James, a 6-3 point guard at LaLumiere, was previously thought to be Illinois’ point guard of the future. The Class of 2013 prospect is verbally committed to the Illini.
Both recruits were glad Illinois’ coaching search was finally completed. They both felt they were in a holding pattern since Weber was fired on March 9.
Groce's tournament success is sure to work for him.
“Coach Groce, you can follow him in the (NCAA) tournament this year and last couple of years,” said Mike Mullins, who coaches James on the Illinois Wolves. “His players are free flowing, a Phoenix (Suns) style of play. The guards play up-temp, attack you defensively and put a lot of pressure on you with schemes and traps. That’s very much the style most recruits say they want to play.
Class of 2012 recruits are hopeful they will play at Illinois next season.