Illini get verbal from top recruit

By Courtney Linehan

On signing day two weeks ago, Bruce Weber said he hoped to soon add a solid guard to his list of commitments.

On Monday Weber got that guard, although he’ll have to wait until 2007 to see him play. Eric Gordon, one of the highest-ranked high school juniors in the nation, made a verbal commitment to the Illini. He cannot sign a letter of intent until the fall of his senior year.

Scout.com listed Gordon as the No. 1 shooting guard in the nation, while Rivals.com ranked him the No. 5 overall player in his class.

As a sophomore, Gordon averaged 26.5 points for North Central High School.

Gordon’s father told the Indianapolis Star that his son chose Illinois for its location and because of the intense interest shown by Illinois’ coaching staff. The father said the three-guard format Illinois used during the 2004-05 season – which so far has produced two of the top rookies in the NBA backcourt – sold his son on Illinois’ ability to train guards as professional-grade players.

If Gordon signs with Illinois, it could be the key Weber needs to convince naysayers of his recruiting ability. While the coach cannot speak directly about specific recruits, he said in a press conference Monday that the team’s success last season has made the difference in how seriously recruits look at Illinois.

“With the success we’ve had, I don’t think they would (look at Illinois) as a courtesy thing anymore,” Weber said. “The players we had last year, the success we had, the style we played, has gotten us that name recognition.”

WEBER’S WOUNDED

Bruce Weber recently broke his ankle. Specifics could not be confirmed, but Sports Information Director Cassie Arner confirmed that the basketball head coach hurt himself while doing work around the house.

The injury has not affected Weber’s coaching responsibilities.

BACK IN BLUE

Illinois will wear blue in Tuesday’s game. The special uniforms, which were designed by Nike, will make appearances later in the season, as Illinois works blue and white back into its uniform color palette.