Groce drops in on 5-star wing
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A day after securing a commitment from 4-star guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, Illinois head coach John Groce was in St. Louis to check on one of this top targets in the class of 2016.
Groce went to see the Rivals.com fourth-ranked player in the class, Jayson Tatum from St. Louis Chaminade. Groce has built a strong relationship with Tatum since he offered him a scholarship as a freshman.
"Coach Groce came to visit me today," Tatum said. "He was the only one that came. It went well as always. He watched us work out and play basketball. We also talked a little bit too."
Tatum, a 6-foot-7 small forward, has a long list of suitors that includes over a dozen offers. He claims no leader, but Tatum did trim his list to ten recently. Making the cut were Arizona, Duke, Illinois, Saint Louis, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, UConn, North Carolina and Wake Forest.
The visit by Groce on Wednesday was all about staying in contact and keeping Tatum up to date on the state of the program.
"Today when (Groce) came, it was just to catch up on things and see how I'm doing," Tatum said. "We also talked a little about the new players he's bringing in to play there too."
Groce and his staff racked up some frequent flyer miles this week, with a stop in Texas to see top 2015 targets Jawun Evans and Elijah Thomas. Thomas is just off an official visit to Illinois, and he named the Illini his leader.
Illinois would now like to get Tatum on campus for a visit. No date is locked in yet.
"It's a possibility I can make a visit this fall," Tatum said. "We will have to see how the schedule goes during basketball season this year.
Tatum was busy over the summer. He participated with the USA 17U men's basketball team, taking home the title at the FIBA World Championships in Dubai in August. He also played in the Under Armour Elite 24 in New York City, which featured 24 of the nation's best players.
The Illini will obviously have major competition for Tatum, but the relationship Groce has established with the Tatum should keep them in the mix throughout the process.
"The thing I like about Coach Groce is he's a great coach and better person, which means a lot to me and what I'm looking for in a school," Tatum said.
Kedric Prince has covered the Fighting Illini for over a decade. He is currently the Illini recruiting analyst for the Moline Dispatch / Rock Island Argus newspaper in the Quad Cities. Follow Kedric on Twitter @KedPrince4