Decision day for Illinois basketball quickly approaching


Austin Yattoni

Five-star small forward Kris Wilkes takes a jump shot during an open practice at Ubben Basketball Complex on Saturday, September 10. Wilkes has not yet committed to play basketball at Illinois.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Illini hoops columnist


Decision day for America was Tuesday. After a long and grueling election season, it’s finally over.

But for Illinois basketball, all eyes are on Nov. 13. Instead of going to the polls and voting, head coach John Groce and the Illini will be refreshing their Twitter feeds.

Five-star recruit Kris Wilkes will be announcing his commitment this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The wing from Indianapolis is deciding between three schools — Indiana, UCLA and Illinois.

A commitment from Wilkes would be a dream come true for Illinois. Wilkes is ranked as the No. 18 player in the nation on and No. 14 on ESPN. Adding Wilkes to the Illini’s already impressive class of 2017 would make Illinois one of the top recruiting classes for next season.

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    The only problem is Illinois seems like a long shot at this point. Wilkes’ crystal ball on includes 13 predictions from recruiting analysts and scouts. All 13 are forecasting a commitment to UCLA.

    According to his timeline on, Wilkes has accumulated four interactions with Indiana, three with UCLA and two with the Illini. These interactions include official visits, unofficial visits and in-home visits.

    Justin Albers, a blogger who covers Indiana basketball, tweeted Nov. 1 that Wilkes had informed Illinois and Indiana that he was going to choose UCLA. There’s no way to confirm this, nor does Albers seem like a 100 percent credible source, but it’s out there.

    It’s hard to remain optimistic for Illinois’ chances at the Wilkes sweepstakes. But it’s not over until Wilkes officially makes a decision. Buckle up. It’s time for a spin-zone.

    The Illini are a dream destination for Wilkes. How many freshmen can come into a program and immediately be looked upon as the go-to guy?

    Not many.

    At Illinois, Wilkes will be the go-to scorer. The Illini have six spots to fill for the class of 2017. UCLA has three seniors on this year’s roster, and Indiana only has one. Someone is going to have to step up for Illinois, and that could be Wilkes.

    If Wilkes goes to UCLA, he will be playing for Steve Alford, who will be entering his first season without coaching his son since 2012. Alford is bound to have a tough year missing that father-son time he was so used to having.

    This phenomenon happened at Creighton after Doug McDermott graduated and the Blue Jays went 14-19 without Greg McDermott coaching his son. It also happened at LSU in 1971 when Press Maravich’s son Pete left the program. They went 10-16 that year.

    Rumor has it, Wilkes will be a one-and-done type player: He’s NBA-bound. Illinois can work with that. With the amount of injuries Illinois has experienced in recent years, some players don’t even make it a full season before getting shut down. Illinois can be considered a less than one-and-done school.

    College is a time for freedom. You are no longer living at home, and that’s a unique responsibility to experience. In terms of location, Illinois is the ideal destination for Wilkes. Indianapolis is about an hour car ride to Bloomington, Indiana. That’s too close. Indianapolis to Los Angeles is a 29-hour car ride or a four-hour plane ride. That’s too far.

    But Champaign is only a two-hour drive from Indianapolis. That’s the perfect distance away from home. Not too close to drive to on any given day, but not too far where going home seems impossible.

    Now that I look at it, Illinois’ glass might be more than half full.

    Matt is a junior in Business.
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