- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that nationally-ranked point guard Demetrius Jackson has opted for Notre Dame rather than Illinois, one alternative option may be up I-57 again and into Chicago.
Simeon coach Robert Smith believes the Illini should give his own point guard, Jaylon Tate, a chance.
Tate, a 6-foot-2 guard, has received interest from mostly mid-major programs so far. Missouri State, Ohio, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin-Green Bay are among the schools recruiting him.
But since Simeon began holding open gyms for college coaches last week, Tate has been creating some buzz. Georgetown asked about him this week, and Illinois, according to a source, has taken notice as well.
“He’s been playing really well,” Smith said. “A lot of people are watching him. He’s just shown he can run a team and be a leader. I think he’s a true point guard. He can get his teammates the ball. He can hit shots. He can defend. He has size. I know Jackson was a priority, but I think Illinois should give Jaylon a look.”
Smith believes, outside of Tate’s talent, another reason for Illinois to consider him is Tate’s bond with Simeon shooting guard Kendrick Nunn, who recently committed to Illinois.
“He and Kendrick have been playing together for a couple years now,” Smith said. “They know each other’s game.”
Tate transferred to Simeon as a junior after spending his first two years on De La Salle’s varsity team. At De La Salle, he was highly regarded at least within state. DePaul and Northwestern were on him.
Last season, Tate fell of the map a bit. He spent a part of his first season at Simeon adjusting to playing with a new team, and his play improved as the season went on. He scored a team-high 11 points in the Wolverines’ state semifinal win over Bloom and had eight points, two assists and two steals in their championship win over Proviso East.
Smith expects even more from Tate this season with last year’s starting point guard Jaleni Neely now graduated.
“I had a talk with him,” Smith said. “This is his team now.”
Illinois coach John Groce has previously said a point guard was a priority for his 2013 recruiting class. Sophomore Tracy Abrams is the lone true point guard on Illinois’ current roster.