John Groce

Chicago native Jaylon Tate commits to Illinois

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Illinois has landed their fourth commitment in the Class of 2013.

Jaylon Tate, a point guard who plays for Simeon High School in Chicago, committed while on an official visit to the campus on Thursday evening. He’s the back court mate of Kendrick Nunn, a top 75 recruit nationally, on Simeon and in the Meanstreets AAU program.

Top 100 swingman Malcolm Hill, another Illinois native, and Maverick Morgan round out the class.

Tate’s commitment is a bit of a surprise in that his stock had fallen off over the past year. Tate was a top 100 recruit when he transferred into Simeon, but he found himself playing as the sixth-man on that team. He was receiving mostly mid-major offers throughout much of the spring and the summer, but according to his head coach, Tate’s really come on strong in the fall.

“I think last year coming off the bench and not playing many minutes kind of knocked him out of the radar,” Robert Smith said. “We never questioned his ability. He didn’t have the spring and summer he wanted. He worked hard in the fall. I knew someone would take a chance on him if they saw in the fall. It just paid off for him.”

What may be more important for Illinois head coach than Tate’s commitment is the possibility of building a pipeline to the one of Chicago’s top producers of basketball talent. Nunn and Tate are far from the most famous players currently on the Simeon roster. That award goes to Sports Illustrated coverboy Jabari Parker, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, although Parker cut Illinois from his list over the summer.

Simeon also has a handful of talented underclassmen on their roster, kids that could eventually find their way to the Illini if that becomes the cool place for star Chicagoans to go.

Groce is still chasing five-star guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, but landing a quality point guard in this class was important for him. The fact that he’s a product of Simeon HS is an added bonus.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.