Austin Colbert Adds to Already Impressive Class for IllinoisPosted by KTrahan on November 13th, 2012
We still don’t know how John Groce will pan out as a head coach at Illinois, but one thing is for sure as his first offseason wraps up — he can recruit. Groce closed out his 2013 class Monday with the signing of three-star power forward Austin Colbert. Colbert, a Gladstone, NJ, native, ranks as the No. 30 power forward in the country. He’s the fifth commitment of this class, joining four-star guard Kendrick Nunn, four-star guard Malcolm Hill, three-star center Maverick Morgan and three-star point guard Jaylon Tate. Scout ranks the class at No. 22 in the country.
While Colbert is a New Jersey recruit, this class as a whole puts to bed the myth that Groce cannot recruit Chicago. Nunn was a huge get for the Illini, and while Tate isn’t as highly regarded, the Simeon teammates established Illinois’ ability to recruit their area. The Illini were also in the top 10 for Simeon forward Jabari Parker, who is the nation’s top player, even though he has taken them off his list by now. They’re hitting Chicago hard in the 2014 class, too, with offers out to stars Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Paul White. Groce also proved he could recruit the rest of the state, retaining Malcolm Hill after he got to Illinois and looking at Kieta Bates-Diop and Larry Austin for the class of 2014.
While home-state recruiting is important, Groce also proved his ability to go national, particularly in his pursuit of Colbert and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who made the Illini’s final three. You can’t expect every commitment to go Groce’s way at this point, but it’s impressive how much he has gotten Illinois’ name out in the world in such a short amount of time in Champaign. As he keeps making more players’ top threes, talented players will gradually end up with the Illini.
One knock on Groce’s predecessor, Bruce Weber, is that he won with Bill Self’s recruits but couldn’t bring in enough talent of his own. Of course, most of what constitutes coaching has to do with what a coach can do with his star players after he gets them on campus, but recruiting is the first step in returning a program to prominence. Groce certainly has his work cut out for him this year — few expect the Illini to compete for a bid to the NCAA Tournament in the rugged Big Ten. However, the foundation he has built for the future is impressive, and it became even more impressive with Colbert’s announcement on Monday.