Chicago Colleges: Simeon
The 6-2 Tate was offered a scholarship by Illini coach John Groce while making an official visit on Thursday. Tate is ranked the 54th-best point guard in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.
"I got a good vibe from the coaching staff," Tate said. "It feels like home. I feel comfortable there on and off the court."
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.
Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 2 junior, remains wide open in his recruitment and isn’t affected by Jabari Parker’s college list, according to Okafor’s father on Thursday.
Parker, the nation’s top ranked junior who plays with Okafor on the Mac Irvin Fire and the 17-and-under U.S. national team, released a list of 10 schools he was considering on Wednesday. The list included BYU, DePaul, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford.
Okafor’s father, Chukwudi Okafor, said Thursday his son’s recruiting process was still in its infancy.
“Jahlil and Jabari are two different things,” Chukwudi said. “It makes sense for Jabari to have a list now. Jahlil’s goal is to get better, and everything else when the dust settles he will know about (his recruitment.)”
One of the biggest surprises of Parker’s list was the exclusion of in-state Illinois. Chukwudi said Okafor won’t be affected by that and is still open to being recruited by Illinois coach John Groce.
“I’ve spoken to coach Groce quite often,” Chukwudi said. “He texts me. I talk to him and call him. He’s trying. I give him that. I think he’s trying to find the right way to build a relationship with my family. I think he feels he has a chance, and he does.
“I know it’s the same old thing, but we have no idea right now. He’s not going to Kennedy-King College or somewhere of that nature.”
Chukwudi said he and his son would begin to delve deeper in the recruitment process this upcoming school year and begin making visits.
Okafor returned home to Chicago this week after earning MVP honors at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while helping the United States to an 8-0 record and a gold medal.
“That was a proud moment,” Chukwudi said. “We watched Jabari get that last year and saw how hard he plays. That’s one of those things that shows all of the hard work is paying off.”
Simeon forward Jabari Parker, the nation’s top-ranked basketball recruit, will not be playing his college basketball at Illinois. The fact that the program has that information in early July – on the heels of Parker excluding the Illini from his list of 10 possible landing destinations on Wednesday – is some sort of silver lining.
The Illini’s chances of landing Parker have always been slim, and that was unlikely to change no matter how often first-year Illinois coach John Groce or his assistants sat courtside to watch Parker play in July. Now with Parker having excluded Illinois, the coaching staff can spend more meaningful time recruiting 2013 players they have a shot at securing. The coaches also can work on developing relationships with the elite 2014 and 2015 players and their families.
As Parker’s father, Sonny, said Thursday, the decision to leave Illinois out of the mix wasn’t anything personal. The Parker family has consistently emphasized that relationships are vital to Jabari’s recruitment. To no fault of Groce’s, he simply didn’t have enough time to establish a relationship with Parker.
“I guess at this stage it’s the relationship part,” Sonny said. “Coach Groce, I’ve been talking to him. My wife has been talking to coach Groce. He seemed nice. (Jabari) had to have a relationship with him, too. It had nothing to do with the school per se. He has to feel comfortable with who’s there and who’s going to be the coach.
“I don’t think he had a chance to (know Groce) because of scheduling and timing. It’s hard for coaches to call Jabari because we don’t allow coaches to call or text him. It was nothing personal (with Groce.)
“(Jabari) likes the school. His dream is to play for his state school and win a national championship like all kids, but I think the timing, where they were and where we’re at.”
Of course, that still isn’t easy for Illinois fans to absorb. They’ve endured a recent history of the Chicago area’s premier players bypassing Illinois and succeeding elsewhere. Sherron Collins, Jon Scheyer, Julian Wright, Derrick Rose, Evan Turner, Wayne Blackshear and Anthony Davis have been among those who ended up elsewhere and won a lot of basketball games at their out-of-state destinations.
In all likelihood, Parker will elevate the college he attends into a national championship contender in the 2013-2014 season and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Would Illinois like that type of prodigious talent? Certainly, and there’s actually another Chicago product following up right behind Parker capable of having that same impact on a program. Whitney Young junior Jahlil Okafor, a 6-11 center currently rated as the No.2 player in the Class of 2014, appears to be one of those rare big men.
“Jahlil is right there with Jabari,” said Mac Irvin Fire coach Mike Irvin, who coaches Parker and Okafor. “He’s definitely right there. Jahlil is probably going to be the best big man this state has ever seen. He’s grown a couple of inches. He’s 6-11, mobile, can run the floor. He’s a game-changer.
“He’s a possible No. 1 draft pick. When you look at the No. 1 pick and the big men who have come out, he fits right there with the No.1 picks. He’s special.”
Okafor’s father, Chukwudi Okafor, said Thursday that his son will not be impacted by Parker choosing to eliminate the Illini and that they are in their recruiting process was still in its infancy.
Irvin believed Illinois now must do anything it can to get Okafor.
“There aren’t Jabari’s and Jahlil Okafor’s that come around often, maybe every 20 years,” Irvin said. “Illinois’ focus has to be on Jahlil Okafor now. You lose a Jabari, man, that’s huge. That’s a blow. Now your thing, if I’m the coach at Illinois, I have to convince Jahlil Okafor.”
At the end of the day, it’s possible that Parker’s rejection of the Illini could lead to Okafor’s acceptance of them.
“I think he would be great as an assistant,” said Rose, who won two state championships at Simeon under Smith. “I think on the high school level he did everything possible -- win championships, state championships. It would be great for him to go onto the college level and see what he can do then.”
Nunn made an unofficial visit along with his father, Melvin Nunn, to Ohio and met with Groce in September, 2010. Groce was the second coach to offer Nunn a scholarship, and father and son came away impressed by Groce.
Nunn, a 6-2 guard, is ranked No. 57 in ESPN's Class of 2014 Super 60. He was one of Simeon's top three players along with No. 1 junior Jabari Parker and Marquette recruit Steve Taylor and helped the Wolverines to their third consecutive state title this past season. He played on the U.S.'s under-16 2011 FIBA Americas gold medal team. He was previously committed to Texas A&M.
Groce was introduced as the Illini's new coach on Thursday.
Smith previously said he was only interested in being the Illini’s head coach. An Illinois representative reached out to Smith during its head coaching search, which concluded Wednesday when former Ohio coach Groce was hired.
“I’ll listen,” Smith said of an assistant position. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It would definitely have to be a role I like. You have to still understand I have a family with two young kids and would have to think about getting up and relocating. It’s something I would have to think about.
“I don’t know (Groce.) You got to be able to have a relationship with him and be able to work for him. I do have a good job already, too. My job might be the best in the state.”
Smith was contacted early in the Illini’s search, but he was never formally interviewed for the position. The Illini are reportedly close to hiring Ohio coach John Groce.
Smith has won five state titles in eight years at Simeon and has coached NBA MVP Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker, the nation’s No. 1 junior.
DeCesare spent four years as DePaul’s associate head coach and was an assistant at Richmond for three years. He’s been the head coach at St. Rita High School in Chicago for the past three years.
Moore graduated from Taft in 1990, and his high school career was played when the state only had two classes. The IHSA expanded basketball to four classes during the 2007-08 season.
“I’m not a fan of four classes,” said Moore, who attended the state tournament on Friday and Saturday. “I just think it really takes away from the strength of the state. When you split everyone up and dissect the talent and make different classes play against one other, I just think it really dilutes what we got in our state. I think it takes away from some of the natural rivalries and matchups that you would historically see.”
Moore watched in the front row of Carver Arena as Peoria Central defeated North Chicago in the Class 3A state championship on Saturday afternoon. Despite its state title, Peoria Central will likely still be considered to rank behind Class 4A finalists Simeon and Proviso East.
Moore was disappointed Peoria Central wouldn’t have the opportunity to prove whether it was better than the two Class 4A teams. Peoria Central had won three previous state titles in the two-class system.
“I just think if you get back down to two classes, then it’s even more competitive,” Moore said. “It’s even more exciting to see these kids go at it and compete. Why not see Peoria Central play against Proviso East in matchup? That’s a great matchup. It’s too bad they had to go to two more classes.”
Despite disagreeing with the four-class system, Moore enjoyed being at the state tournament.
“I think it’s great down to be here,” Moore said. “I think it means a lot. It’s our state’s Final Four if you want to put in that nature. It means a lot to our kids, our programs, our schools. This is a great venue.”
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
7:45 2nd Qtr Florida 14 3 Alabama 14 1:20 2nd Qtr 6 Texas A&M 31 SMU 3 10:22 2nd Qtr Indiana 14 18 Missouri 7 1:00 2nd Qtr Virginia 13 21 BYU 13 8:00 PM ET 22 Clemson 1 Florida State 10:30 PM ET 2 Oregon Washington State 7:30 PM ET 4 Oklahoma West Virginia 7:00 PM ET Mississippi State 8 LSU 7:30 PM ET 14 South Carolina Vanderbilt 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska Final Eastern Michigan 14 11 Michigan State 73 Final Troy 0 13 Georgia 66 Final Bowling Green 17 19 Wisconsin 68