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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Groce contacts Smith, assistant job unlikely

By Scott Powers

Robert Smith
Robert Smith liked what he heard from John Groce.
Simeon coach Robert Smith said Thursday he recently had a positive conversation with new Illinois coach John Groce, but he didn't anticipate being asked onto Groce's staff.

Smith was contacted during Illinois' coaching search and previously said he would listen if offered an assistant position. Smith has compiled a 230-37 record and won an IHSA record five state championships in eight years at Simeon. His current players include the nation's No. 1 junior Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn, who was previously committed to Texas A&M, and Marquette recruit Steve Taylor.

"No, we didn't get into (his staff)," Smith said. "Basically, we had a conversation about him being the coach and what his views were. It wasn't anything about coaching. Right now, I'm happy where I'm at. It looks like I'm going to be here, and I'm basically getting ready for next year."

Smith was unfamiliar with Groce, who was previously Ohio's coach, before being hired at Illinois. Groce contacted Smith since being named Illinois' coach on March 29, and Smith was pleased with what he heard.

"We had a great conversation," Smith said. "I think he's going to be able to come in and relate to the guys. I think the guys will take to him. He has that charisma like some of the big-time coaches do."

Smith was especially happy to hear Groce's take on where Illinois should be as a program were similar to his own.

"He wants to make Illinois one of the top-10 teams in the country every year, not just a year here or year there," Smith said. "He wants to pull kids from Illinois and some of the kids from the CPS (Chicago Public Schools), but also get them from around the country. If he can pull that off, we'll be on the same page."

Smith was unsure whether Illinois had a shot at landing Parker. Smith didn't know if Groce had contacted Parker's family yet. Parker's father, Sonny, said recently time was running out to develop a relationship with Illinois' new coach before Parker committed in the fall.

Nunn, who is ranked No. 57 in the Class of 2013 by ESPN, is making an unofficial visit to Illinois on Thursday.