Illinois and head coach John Groce locked up a big verbal commitment in the junior class on Saturday as Plainfield East shooting guard Aaron Jordan committed to the Illini during an unofficial visit to campus following Illinois' home win over Penn State.
The commitment of the 6-foot-4 Jordan -- regarded by Rivals as the No. 60 player in the 2015 class nationally and viewed as a consensus top-5 prospect in the state of Illinois' junior class -- is huge for Illinois and Groce on a number of levels and it means a couple of different things.
For one, by pairing the scoring-minded Jordan with a do-it-all wing like Illinois' other in-state junior commit, Simeon's DJ Williams, Illinois has a tremendous foundation to build on with two top-five players in the state of Illinois' junior class.
Looking at the current Illinois roster, when Jordan and Williams step foot on campus in Champaign in a few years, they'll be able to grow into their roles because the previous classes that Groce has assembled will already have talent at those positions.
Illinois has current freshmen Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill in the backcourt getting minutes this season and they'll be experienced juniors in two seasons. That will allow Jordan and Williams time to adjust to the rigors of major college basketball. Having that kind of talent at guard also should allow Groce the ability to play some three-guard lineups and create mismatches on the perimeter.
Tate is a point guard, Nunn is a versatile two-way guard, Hill is a slasher and Jordan is a quick-trigger shooter that can fill it up. All four guards have different strengths and should compliment each other well depending on what the given lineup that Groce puts on the floor calls for.
It also doesn't hurt that all five of those players are in-state products.
While the local schools, including Illinois, have whiffed on the star-studded No. 1-in-the-country type of prospects like Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander the past couple of seasons, the state of Illinois is still arguably the most fertile talent pool in the country for basketball talent. And, the run of ridiculous top-flight talent in Illinois that included the No. 1 player in the country in three out of four classes will likely never happen again. Illinois won't have to fight off the Kentuckys, Dukes, and Kansases of the world for every top prospect like the past couple of classes.
But Illinois can still win -- and win big -- without "one-and-done" players constantly coming through Champaign.
Groce getting commitments from talented local juniors like Williams and Jordan early signifies that kids are buying into his vision about the future of Illinois' basketball program. The Illinois staff can now focus on rounding out the class with a big man and likely someone that can play some point guard and they can sell having two top-60 prospects in Jordan and Williams to play along with those recruits.
The big man might be tough to come by locally -- although Illinois will monitor some local big men like St. Rita's Myles Carter -- but now the staff can fixate on local guards like Stevenson's Jalen Brunson and St. Rita's Charles Matthews to help round out the class of 2015.
Illinois is in great shape going forward on the recruiting trail and they're doing it by locking up local talent early. Many in the college basketball world believe that you can win a national championship at Illinois because of the talent the state of Illinois has to offer and Groce and his staff are taking full advantage of that so far.