Earlier today, Will Leitch, who founded Deadspin and is an unabashed Illinois hoops fan, wrote about Cliff Alexander, the Illini’s top Class of 2014 target, and the recruiting process on an elite prospect for Sports on Earth.
More specifically, he writes about just how weird and awkward that process actually is.
I’ve become accustomed to it by now. I’ve been blogging about college hoops since 2007 and have covered the sport for NBC since 2010. I’m used to the idea of waiting with baited breath for a 16 or 17 year old to make a decision about where he will be going to college for, in many cases, all of about seven months.
But when I sit back and think about how recruiting is covered in college hoops, it’s weird, right?
As Leitch puts it, “Alexander basically has tens of thousands of people — fans, journalists, coaches, administrators — begging him to attend their school for one year. If he earns a degree, it will be years from now, while he is already a millionaire.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.