Is Abu Kigab a lost cause for Illinois basketball? Maybe not

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Austin Yattoni

Recruits were given the full treatment during their official visits the weekend of the North Carolina game when recruits and current players practiced at Ubben Basketball Complex.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

Abu Kigab is coming to Champaign this weekend, but his heart might be staying back in Oregon.

The four-star wing is taking an official visit with Illinois starting Friday. He has length, raw athleticism, scoring abilities and defensive prowess. And he is fresh off a recruiting visit from Oregon.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Abu Kigab is looking like a lost cause.

Kigab’s crystal ball predictions say he is 100 percent going to commit to Oregon. Seven different recruiting analysts and scouts who all have a solid track record of successfully forecasting commitment destinations have made these predictions.

But if Illinois’ class of 2017 has proven anything, Illinois head coach John Groce can turn it all around. This weekend will be a good test for Groce’s recruiting skills. There’s a reason Kigab scheduled a visit with the Illini, and Groce needs to do everything in his power to give Illinois a chance.

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    Two spots remain for the class of 2017, and Illinois can’t afford to sit and wait for other recruits like Kris Wilkes, a five-star forward who visited Illinois last weekend. Wilkes had a successful visit with the Illini but is most likely going to take a while to make a decision. His last scheduled visit is for the weekend of Nov. 3 with Connecticut.

    This means Illinois needs to push hard for Kigab. The 6-foot-7 wing is ranked No. 136 and is the 27th-best small forward in the nation, according to 247sports.com. While his ranking is significantly different compared to Wilkes, Kigab would still be a solid addition to the class of 2017.

    Kigab would be the third four-star commit for the class, which also includes a three-star and five-star commit.

    The forward from Napa, California, has demonstrated a solid ability to clean up rebounds with his jumping and rebounding skills. He’s aggressive and attacks the offensive glass. He possesses a good basketball IQ and can read offenses when he is defending the basket.

    A majority of his scoring comes from down low by pounding the ball in the paint or attacking the rim on drives. A questionable aspect of his game, though, is his jump shot. Kigab’s shooting ability is rarely featured in his highlight tapes. It would be reassuring to see more of Kigab’s jumpers featured in his tapes.

    Another area of concern from Kigab is his solid passing ability.

    Usually it’s nice to see a player with strong passing skills, especially wings and bigs. But Kigab’s case is different. I am worried that Kigab wants to focus on playing more of a guard position than a wing or post.

    One of Kigab’s highlight tapes on YouTube from January 2015 features some interview questions. One of Kigab’s responses discussed his desire to switch to a guard role.

    “I see myself playing as a guard,” Kigab said. “Right now I’m working on my handles and shot. Just trying to transition from a bit of a forward to more of a 2-1 type of guard.”

    This interview is from a while ago, but it’s something to consider. Illinois’ class of 2017 already consists of three guards in DaMonte Williams, Trent Frazier and Javon Pickett. They don’t need to add another.

    Regardless, there is a lot of potential during this weekend’s visit. The last visits with Frazier, Ayo Dosunmu and Wilkes have all gone pretty well. Groce needs to keep that trend going with Kigab.

    Including Illinois and Oregon, USC, Tennessee, California and UCLA are Kigab’s final six schools. After this weekend, he has a visit scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 7 with California.

    Not committing after his visit with Oregon last week indicates that he will take his time with his decision.

    While there is still a lot of uncertainty with Kigab, one thing is for sure — Illinois fans will be consulting their psychics after this weekend to see if Kigab’s crystal ball is changing.

    Matt Gertsmeier is a junior in Business.
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