Groce hosts trio of recruits as current team returns to campus


Summer on the University of Illinois campus is generally quiet, a time mostly devoid of any significant Illini hoops news.

However, there were some developments this past weekend with John Groce’s program as he hosted a trio of visitors, while welcoming back some familiar faces as well.

Summer school starts this week, which means the Illini basketball team reported back to campus after an extended break following finals. They’ll be participating in the Illini basketball summer camps and getting back to work as offseason workouts and practices get underway.

Groce’s third Illini recruiting class will get settled on campus as well, as incoming freshmen Aaron Jordan, Jalen Coleman-Lands and D.J. Williams officially join the team. ranks Illinois’ 2015 class as the second-best in the Big Ten, behind only Ohio State.

Junior forward Darius Paul is back on campus as well after serving a season-long suspension last year.

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    But more intriguing for Illini fans is the action on the recruiting front, as Groce hosted three high school hoopers for weekend visits, all of whom currently hold Illinois offers. Class of 2016 point guard Charlie Moore from Morgan Park, 2017 guard Da’Monte Williams from Peoria Manual and 2016 point guard C.J. Walker from Arsenal Technical in Indianapolis all took unofficial visits this weekend.

    You might be relatively unfamiliar with these prospects, so let’s take a closer look at each of them.

    Charlie Moore

    Moore is a 5-foot-10 point guard who was forced to play off the ball for much of his junior season. Former Illini target Marcus LoVett ran the show for Morgan Park, earning much of the hype that surrounded the third-best 3A team in Illinois. He toured the Illini campus Saturday with Groce and his high school coach Nick Irvin.

    Moore will be the main attraction for his Morgan Park squad during his senior season, when he’ll have a chance to fully put his point skills on display. ESPN ranked Moore as the No. 89 prospect in his class, and he currently holds offers from Iowa, Georgia Tech and St. John’s, among others. He’s small, but has deep range on a deadly three-point shot, and could provide some much-needed point guard relief for the Illini following the departure of Tracy Abrams.

    C.J. Walker

    Walker arrived for his visit Sunday, only a couple of months after de-committing from Purdue. The 6-foot, 180-pound Walker is from Indy, and is yet another example of Groce’s efforts to recruit in the Hoosier state. He was the point guard on a state championship team that featured Trey Lyles before he was a Kentucky Wildcat, and is another solid point guard option in a class where Illinois needs them badly.

    Walker is rated the No. 100 player in his class by ESPN, and also holds offers from Iowa, Butler, Mizzou, Pitt, Memphis and Xavier.

    Da’Monte Williams

    Williams is a very intriguing prospect for the Illini for a number of reasons. The 6-foot-2 guard is the son of former Illini superstar Frank Williams, and showed flashes reminiscent of his father during his first two years at Manual. Williams’ elite athleticism helps make him an extremely talented scorer at the high school level. His efforts have earned him his first offer (from Illinois) and a No. 38 ranking in the 2017 class from ESPN.

    Williams arrived Friday morning and left early Friday afternoon after touring the campus and basketball facilities, and the junior-to-be said the visit went well. Williams said Sunday that he liked how positive Groce is as a person, and that he’d get a chance to compete against the nation’s best players if he ends up at Illinois.

    “They said if I do choose to go there, I’ll be playing against big-time players,” Williams said. “And I’ll be getting a good education at the same time.”

    But you probably shouldn’t expect a college decision anytime soon from Williams. He says at the moment he’s more focused on returning to the court from a hip injury, rather than thinking too hard just yet about potential schools.

    “It’s all kind of wide open,” Williams said of his recruitment. “I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been trying to get back to playing, because I messed up my hip.”

    Landing Williams would help Groce re-establish a once-thriving Champaign-to-Peoria recruiting pipeline that dried up once D.J. Richardson graduated. 2017 is an eternity away in recruiting years, but Williams’ high school career and recruitment will definitely be fun to follow going forward.

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