RECRUITING: Illini’s commits set sights on Final Four

By Jeremy Werner

Peoria High School guard D.J. Richardson hopes his future meetings with Indiana commit Matt Roth have happier endings. The Illinois commit outscored Roth, but Richardson’s team lost 73-57 to Washington High School in the Class 3A sectional semifinal.

Richardson said the outcome was disappointing, but he looks forward to playing against Roth again in the future.

“We’re two Big Ten players playing with each other on the court,” Richardson said. “We matched up then, and we’ll match up sometime in the future.”

Richardson visited Assembly Hall to watch Illinois’ 59-51 loss to Michigan last week but said the Illini’s recent struggles have not affected his commitment to the team.

“I’m pretty solid in my commitment,” Richardson said. “They got on me from the start, so I think I’m going to stick with them. I think I fit in good with this team. I like their offense; they play defense. I think it’s going to be a good college for me in my future.”

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The 6-foot-3 guard is part of the Illini’s class of 2009. Richardson, Sterling guard Joseph Bertrand and Warren guard Brandon Paul all committed to Bruce Weber within 48 hours of each other in October, giving Weber the recruiting success he has struggled to achieve in recent years.

Tyler Griffey, a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Wildwood, Mo., joined the Class of 2009 when he gave the Illini a verbal commitment last month. Richardson said Griffey provides the Illini with “just more talent.”

“The more talent, the better we play,” Richardson said. “I think (Tyler) will be more help helping us get to the Final Four. One of our goals is to get back to the Final Four, and I think he’ll help us.”

Richardson has been to Assembly Hall multiple times this season and is already close with the team, especially freshman guard Demetri McCamey. The Illinois coaching staff has kept in close contact with Richardson as well.

“They told me just to stay aggressive, keep attacking, keep playing hard, keep hitting the books and keep being a smart player on and off the court,” Richardson said.

Although the Peoria native’s junior season ended earlier than he would have liked, Richardson is already practicing for his AAU season. The guard said he plans on spending the summer improving his strength and perfecting his jump shot.

In the meantime, Richardson will be rooting for the Illini in the Big Ten Tournament and hopes the team can improve next year.

“I believe in them next year,” Richardson said. “They’ll have Jamar Smith back and he’ll bring a lot. They’ll be more energized.”

Dominique Keller update

Junior college prospect Dominique Keller was on hand for the Illini’s season finale victory Saturday against Minnesota.

The 6-foot-7, 235 pound forward gave the Illini a verbal commitment and will likely fill the void left by Brian Carlwell, who decided to leave the team earlier this season. Keller averaged 25.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for Lee Community College in Texas this season.

Weber makes offer to another freshman

Bartonville Limestone freshman Donivine Stewart has received an offer from Illinois. The Peoria-area guard is the second freshman to receive a scholarship offer from Weber in two years.

Waukegan forward Jereme Richmond verbally committed to Illinois after receiving an offer from Weber last year. Unlike Richmond, Stewart plans on taking his time to make a commitment.