Mayan Kiir takes official visit with Illinois basketball

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Daily Illini File Photo

(right) Head coach John Groce congratulates guard Khalid Lewis during the game against Notre Dame at the State Farm Center on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Illinois lost 84-79.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

While all of the members of the Illinois basketball team were ready for pictures last Friday at Illini Media day, there was one athlete not in uniform — but that might change in the near future.

Three-star forward Mayan Kiir took his official visit to Illinois on Friday. At 6-foot-9, Kiir towered over the row of journalists who filed into Ubben. I’m not sure when the last time his recruiting profile was updated, but Kiir looked to be close to 7-feet tall.

Kiir arrived on campus Thursday and immediately posted a picture from an Illinois basketball practice on his Twitter. Kiir’s Twitter was blown up with warm receptions from Illini fans.

 

https://twitter.com/KiirMayan/status/784152465348239360

The big man from Bradenton, Fla. appeared to be under the wing of forward Michael Finke. Interpret this however you want, but by the end of the visit Finke was the latest follow Kiir made on Twitter.

Finke is a great pairing for Kiir to shadow. If Kiir were to commit to Illinois, he would have two years to play alongside Finke. Kiir’s game is also quite similar to Finke’s. The 6-foot-10-inch sophomore has a strong balance between his inside and outside scoring presence, much like what Kiir has demonstrated in highlight tapes.

With the official start of Illini basketball practices this week, it was a great chance for Kiir to get an up-close look at Illinois basketball culture.

Having spoke with Kiir about a month ago, I think he would fit in nicely with head coach John Groce’s system. One of the biggest takeways from our conversation was his work ethic. He was determined to continue building his recruiting stock despite being added to ESPN’s Top-100 for the class of 2017.

And I’m not the only one who thinks Kiir is bound to commit to the Illini. Kiir’s crystal ball on 247sports.com have scouts predicting a commitment to Illinois.

If Kiir were to commit, he would be the fifth addition to Groce’s class of 2017. He would be the third recruit in ESPN’s Top-100 (Jermiah Tilmon No. 37, DaMonte Williams No. 92). Kiir’s addition would definitely improve Illinois’ recruiting class rankings that is ranked No. 3 on 247sports.com.

Kiir would be the second big man in Illinois’ class of 2017, and his size will be much needed. The Illini will be losing centers Maverick Morgan and Mike Thorne Jr. due to graduation after this season. Kiir being much closer to 7-feet than 6-foot-9, would be a nice replacement for Illini’s two bigs.

The Illini will lose consistent rebounding and shot blocking from Morgan and Thorne Jr. The length that Kiir possesses allow him to be a presence down low, both on offense and defense. He has demonstrated a strong understanding of his positioning in the paint to secure rebounds and block or alter shots.

While he has tremendous height, he could add some weight to his frame. But after seeing the work that Illinois basketball’s strength coach Adam Fletcher did this offseason, I am not concerned with Kiir adding muscle and size.

Overall, it appeared that Kiir’s visit was a success. He received a warm welcome from fans and received a great taste of what Illinois can offer. I think there’s a good chance Illinois fans will see Kiir in an Illinois uniform at next year’s media day.

Matt is a Junior in Business

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@MattGertsmeier