Chicago Colleges: Quentin Snider

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):


Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Groce building a contender in Illinois?

September, 16, 2013
I had doubts when Illinois picked John Groce to lead its program in 2012 after Bruce Weber was dismissed.

My doubts were really tied to Illinois, not Groce. He clearly had credentials. He’d led Ohio to that season’s Sweet 16, where the Bobcats lost an overtime war to North Carolina. Prior to his tenure in the MAC, he’d spent time under Thad Matta at Ohio State.

Yet, he’d entered a challenging situation. Weber reached the 2005 national title game with Dee Brown and Deron Williams but he never found that perch again. Years of disappointment followed that achievement.

The recruiting battles he lost -- many involving kids in nearby Chicago -- were critical in the team’s gradual decline.

So once Groce took the job, he immediately faced one major question: Can he bring elite talent to Champaign?

That’s the only question any coach has to answer. But Illinois’ leaders have faced even more scrutiny due to their proximity to a recruiting hub named Chicago (although it’s really not that close to Chicago).

Well, Groce’s latest coup proves that Illinois’ spot on the recruiting map has been elevated -- locally and nationally -- since he arrived.

Quentin Snider, ranked 28th in the 2014 class per RecruitingNation, chose Illinois last week, even though some thought he’d pick UCLA (see my colleague Eamonn Brennan’s post on the SoCal recruiting war). But Groce made a fourth-quarter pitch to the point guard that obviously worked.

More on the Snider move from’s Adam Finkelstein:

But Illinois made a late push to get Snider on campus last weekend, allowing it to make a final impression. The Illini followed that up by traveling to Louisville the next day to conduct an in-home visit to help Groce seal the deal.

Snider was a late addition to this year's point guard market after having previously been committed to Louisville for almost two years.

He decommitted on July 31 due to concerns about the number of other talented guards on the Cardinals' roster. In Illinois and UCLA, Snider narrowed his choices to two programs who could provide him what Louisville could not -- an opportunity to run the show from the start.

The commitment is a potentially huge addition for Illinois because it was able to land one of the last remaining point guards capable of making an immediate impact. After Groce's 2013 recruiting class was headlined by a pair of ESPN 100 swingmen in Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill, along with an athletic and skilled big man in Austin Colbert, his top priorities in 2014 were to get a post player and a point guard.

Groce’s 2014 class is now ranked fourth overall by RecruitingNation. With Nunn and Hill -- a pair of Illinois kids -- anchoring his 2013 class, UI finished 15th nationally.

Next year could be a tough one for an Illinois team that will rely on multiple transfers and young faces after losing Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. Then again, Nunn and Co. could make an immediate impact and push the Illini into another NCAA tournament slot.

But regardless of what happens this season, the talent pipeline is rich. Groce has already proven many doubters wrong. Last season, he led the team to an upset of No. 1 Indiana and an NCAA tournament victory in his first year on the sideline.

If the program’s prospects fulfill their potential and stick around for more than a year, Groce could turn Illinois into a Big Ten player and national title contender again.

That might not seem clear in 2013-14.

But Groce is definitely loading up in Champaign.

Illinois is rising. Quickly.

Scout's Take: Illini score with PG Snider 

September, 12, 2013
Illinois coach John Groce landed his second ESPN 100 prospect when point guard Quentin Snider (Louisville, Ky./Ballard) picked the Fighting Illini over UCLA on Thursday.

Snider, No. 28 in the ESPN 100 and the No. 7 point guard, decommitted from hometown national champion Louisville back in July and many elite programs, including Michigan State and Connecticut in addition to the Fighting Illini and Bruins, put the full court press on the four star true point guard. When it was all said and done, Groce and his staff earned the commitment from the second best player from the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville (only Ohio State commit D'Angelo Russell ranks higher).

Why did he pick Illinois and what will he bring to the Fighting Illini? Let's break it down.

Recruiting: Cunningham gaining interest

August, 30, 2013
Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin may be biased, but he believes senior forward Josh Cunningham is going to do big things in the future.

"Josh is going to be a NBA player," Irvin said on Friday. "There's three guys that stick out -- Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Josh. He's a sponge. He's getting better and better each year. He's tough. He understands basketball. He plays hard. He's young. He's only going to get better."

Cunningham isn't considered by most to be an NBA prospect at this point, but his profile is growing. He's ranked No. 27 among power forwards by ESPN and is starting to get even more recruiting interest. He already has offers from Creighton, DePaul, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma and St. John's, but now Michigan State has also reached out to him. Illinois has also touched base. According to a source, he's a priority for Northwestern.

"Michigan State is coming in hard," Irvin said. "They've been on him, but haven't offered. They have high interest in him. He's got two visits set up in Iowa State and Oklahoma."

Irvin said he expected Cunningham wait until the spring to decide.

Here are some other local recruiting notes:

• Whitney Young senior center Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 player in the country, is making an official visit to Baylor this weekend. He will be joined on the trip by Tyus Jones, who is ranked No. 3. Okafor is considering Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State.

• Illinois is getting an official visit this weekend from White Station (Memphis) senior forward Leron Black, who is ranked No. 36. Black recently cut his list to Baylor, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee.

• UIC received a commitment from Munster (Ind.) combo guard Drew Hackett on Thursday.

• According to a source, DePaul is working on setting up official visits with Whitney Young senior forward Paul White, who is ranked No. 57, and Christian Brothers (St. Louis) senior shooting guard Pat McCaw, who is ranked No. 87. White recently cut his list to Arizona, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown and Minnesota.

• Benet senior center Sean O'Mara, the No. 20 center in the country, will make an official visit to Loyola next weekend. O'Mara is considering Loyola, Massachusetts, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Wichita State and Xavier.

• Illinois will receive an unofficial visit from Ballard (Ky.) senior point guard Quentin Snider on Sept. 29. Snider, a former Louisville recruit, is considering Cincinnati, Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma State, UCLA and USC.

• Northwestern offered Fenwick senior shooting guard Scott Lindsey on Monday. Lindsey is expected to make official visits to Iowa, Nevada and Northwestern. He is making an unofficial visit to Vanderbilt this week.

• Simeon junior forward D.J. Williams, who is ranked No. 32, will make an unofficial visit to Illinois this weekend and attend the Illini's football game.

• Hinsdale Center sophomore center Barret Benson, Whitney Young sophomore guard Skyler Nash and Sandburg senior forward Malek Harris, all of whom play for the Illinois Wolves, will attend Marquette's Midnight Madness on Oct. 11. Harris is committed to Marquette. Benson was recently offered by Penn State.

• North Chicago senior JayQuan McCloud will visit Murray State on Sept. 13 and Rhode Island on Sept. 20.

• Chicago State received a commitment from Richards senior power forward Josh Meier on Thursday.

Illini focusing on 2014 basketball recruits

August, 2, 2013
Illinois coach John Groce and his staff have narrowed their recruiting focus for the class of 2014. Here's a look at the players the Illini are recruiting:

Curie (Chicago) power forward Cliff Alexander: Alexander, the nation's No. 2-ranked senior by ESPN, is the priority for Illinois. He would be the biggest recruit in the program's history since the Illini landed Marcus Liberty and Deon Thomas in the late 1980s. Alexander would likely only stick around one season, but he could do wonders for Illinois on the floor in that one year and off the floor in recruiting, especially in Chicago, for many years to come. Groce was glued to Alexander's club games in July. Alexander, his parents and his coaches are said to be in communication with Groce and his staff often. Sources have indicated Alexander is high on the Illini, and those around Alexander are pleased with Illinois' constant contact.

Whitney Young (Chicago) center Jahlil Okafor: Okafor, the nation's No. 1 recruit, hasn't cut Illinois from his list, and Illinois hasn't stopped recruiting him, but his coming to the school likely won't happen. Okafor and Tyus Jones have been adamant about wanting to play with together, and Jones isn't interested in Illinois, and Illinois isn't recruiting Jones. The math is simple. Illinois' hope has to be for Okafor and Jones not to end up somewhere in the Big Ten. They're considering Michigan State and Ohio State.

White Station (Tennessee) power forward Leron Black: Illinois feels as good about its chances with Black as anyone it's recruiting in the senior class. Black, who is ranked No. 36 in the country, has other schools, including Florida, Indiana and Louisville, after him, but the Illini have been pursuing him for some time now and have built a relationship. If Illinois received a commitment from Alexander or Black, it wouldn't mean the Illini would lose out on the other player. Illinois believes Alexander, a big-bodied power forward, and Black, a more slender and high-motored power forward, could play perfectly together and have been trying to sell them on that.

Ballard (Kentucky) point guard Quentin Snider: Snider, who is ranked No. 28, recently de-committed from Louisville and re-opened his recruitment. Illinois has already been in touch and offered him a scholarship. Groce is still looking for his point guard of the future, and Snider could be that. A lot of schools, including several in the Big Ten, are reaching out to Snider, so it may be some time before he creates a list and figures out whether he'll consider Illinois.

Morgan Park (Chicago) power forward Josh Cunningham: Illinois has expressed some interest to Cunningham and his high school and club coach Nick Irvin. The Illini have invited Cunningham to come on campus for a visit. Cunningham has drawn some Big Ten interest from Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern and has also been recruited by DePaul, but he's still likely a long shot to get an offer from Illinois. If things fall through with Alexander and Black, Cunningham could be Plan C. Cunningham has said he's going to take his time with his recruiting, so that could play into Illinois' favor down the road. Either way, the Illini are covering their tracks in case they want to pursue Cunningham harder at some point.

Other notes:

  • Illinois has been in contact with the father of Marian Catholic (Illinois) senior point guard Tyler Ulis, but the Illini haven't picked up their recruiting of him.
  • Another Simeon player could be on the verge of getting a scholarship offer from Illinois. The Illini have been closely following class of 2016 guard Zack Norvell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard.



Thursday, 10/23
Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25