Kentucky guard to transfer to Illinois

By Jeff LaBelle

The Illini found their man on the outside Saturday in former 6-foot-4 Kentucky shooting guard Alex Legion, a top-10 recruit at his position one year ago that is almost sure to start for the Illini next season.

Legion, a Michigan native, reportedly left Kentucky because of personal issues with new head coach Billy Gillispie’s coaching style. He played in six games there, averaging 6.7 points and 1.3 assists before growing tired of the relationship.

Legion had been debating between Illinois and Notre Dame as possible destinations as of late, but reportedly opted for Illinois because of a strong relationship with first-year assistant coach Jerrance Howard, who previously worked under Gillispie at Kentucky and Texas A&M.;

“My relationship with Coach Howard translated over from Kentucky,” Legion told the Chicago Tribune. “He’s a great guy, an inspirational guy. You need guys like that on your staff.

“He can cheer guys on when things aren’t going right,” Legion added. “And Coach Weber was recruiting me in the 10th grade.”

Although his eligibility for this season is spent, Legion will be eligible to play roughly one year from now after first semester 2008 grades are posted. From there, he will step into the Illini lineup in time for the Big Ten portion of their schedule and will bring much needed scoring to a defensive-oriented roster.

Just last season, the No. 1guard in the country, Eric Gordon, decommited from Illinois to attend Indiana, where he has averaged 24.4 points this season. Quinton Watkins, a Compton, Calif., native that was signed to replace Gordon, turned out to be ineligible per NCAA academic rules. And sophomore guard Jamar Smith was forced into a redshirt because of his involvement in a car crash last year.

Smith will regain eligibility at the beginning of next season and could potentially form a potent shooting combo with Legion.

He will spell relief at a shooting guard position that will also return Trent Meacham, Calvin Brock, Steve Hodren and Demiti McCamey. Junior guard Chester Frazier will likely still run the point.

Legion is only the second commitment to the 2008 recruiting class, joining 6-foot-9 forward Stan Simpson.

Also a factor in the long run will be if or how Legion’s commitment affects the strong 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes that include guards D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and Jereme Richmond.

Be sure to check back with DailyIllini.com for updates on the Illini men’s basketball team throughout winter break.