While Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are the most noteworthy seniors to be leaving the Illinois program, John Groce has some work to do in the recruiting trail when it comes to the Fighting Illini front court.
Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin were also seniors, and Illinois’ five-member 2013 recruiting class includes forward Austin Colbert and center Maverick Morgan.
Those two will have the opportunity to earn playing time the moment they arrive on campus, and the decision of three players to transfer makes the adjustment process for both Colbert and Morgan even more important.
Forwards Ibby Djime (6-8, 245) and Mike Shaw (6-8, 215), as well as 6-7 wing Devin Langford, have all decided to leave the Illinois program. Of the three Shaw, a Chicago native, was the player held in highest regard when he arrived on campus (considered to be a Top 100 recruit in many circles) but none of them were able to earn a spot in the rotation.
“Mike, Ibby and Devin are outstanding young men who have always represented the University of Illinois in a first-class manner,” Groce said in a statement released by the school.
“We will help them in any we can during this process to find the best fit, so that they are able to achieve their goals on the basketball court and in the classroom.”
Langford saw the most playing time of the three this season, playing in 22 games and averaging 4.3 minutes per contest. In an interview with Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago, Shaw noted the lack of playing time as the biggest factor in his decision to transfer.
“At the end of the day, I’m trying to play,” Shaw said in the story. “I came to college to get an education and play basketball. It wasn’t looking too good here to play and get as much playing time as I thought I would.”
The decision of these three to transfer leaves Illinois with just one returnee inside: rising sophomore center Nnanna Egwu. It will be interesting to see if Groce and his staff look to add another big man to the program during the spring signing period, but given their lack of numbers in the paint that may be a necessity.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.