What is the recruiting pitch for Wilkes this weekend?

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff Writer


The hype for this weekend’s game against North Carolina has already reached fever-pitch, but there’s hopefully more in store for Illini nation in the coming weeks. One of the best athletes in the nation will be at the game, but he won’t be on the field at all.

The Illinois basketball team will have a chance to woo potential recruit Kris Wilkes when he comes to Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, in what would be a huge addition for the already talented 2017 recruiting class. Various sources confirmed Wilkes’ official visit for Sept. 9, giving Illinois the first attempt out of his potential options. He has scheduled visits with every school in his top-five: Illinois, UCLA, Indiana, Xavier and Connecticut.

Even though batting leadoff in a recruiting battle is a tall order, especially for a recruit as sought-after as Wilkes, it gives the Illini an opportunity to set the bar high. So what is the pitch for Wilkes?

One of the foremost strengths head coach John Groce should emphasize is the Illini’s current class of 2017. Wilkes has an opportunity to be a part of  Groce’s best recruiting class and one of the greatest in Illini basketball history.

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    Groce’s class of 2017 is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation on 247sports.com. Of Wilkes’ remaining five schools, the Illini are ranked the highest. UCLA is ranked No. 4, Xavier No. 7, Connecticut No. 30, and Indiana No. 61. The Hoosiers’ class currently consists of only one three-star commit.

    A commitment from Wilkes, the 18th best player in the nation, would launch Illinois into the running for the No. 1 2017 recruiting class.

    The Illini’s class is composed of three-star guard Javon Pickett, four-star guards DaMonte Williams and Trent Frazier and five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon.

    It is rumored that Pickett, Williams and Tilmon will be on campus this weekend to help with Wilkes’ recruitment. Throw in the former player (now Director of Player Development) Dee Brown and football head coach Lovie Smith, and Wilkes will have quite an entourage this weekend.

    Next up on the recruiting pitch is the possibility for major minutes as a freshman. Illinois will be losing forward Malcolm Hill after this season due to graduation. As long as they don’t transfer or declare for the NBA draft, the Illini will still have D.J. Williams and Kipper Nichols who can both play the small forward position.

    But the 6-foot-7 Wilkes has athleticism, length and leaping ability that needs to be on the court wreaking havoc against opponents. He attacks the rim hard and can be a reliable scorer for the Illinois offense while creating chaos for opponents on the defensive end. His raw talent could easily translate into a solid workload, even as a freshman.

    The third item on the agenda for this weekend is the national exposure Illinois can offer. Wilkes would be competing in one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA and showcasing his talent on a big stage. Last year Illinois had five games televised on ESPN, and that was during a losing season.

    Not to mention Wilkes would be playing in front of fans that mostly consider Illinois a “basketball school” in the finally renovated State Farm Center. No more games in Springfield, hopefully.

    There’s a few ways this weekend can play out.

    Plan A: Wilkes cancels all of the rest of his official visits and commits to the Illini.

    Plan B: Wilkes loves the visits and is ready to commit to Illinois, but wants to respect the time of the other programs and still goes on visits with them and then commits to the Illini when all is said and done.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to plan C.

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