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2018 priority target set for Illini visit this weekend

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

By Thomas Polcyn, Illini Hoops columnist

With football back and classes in full swing, now is as good a time as ever for Illinois basketball recruiting visits to get underway.

This weekend, head coach Brad Underwood will be hosting one of his primary targets in the class of 2018, four-star small forward Landers Nolley. The 6-foot-4-inch Georgia native is ranked as the 96th overall player in the class of 2018, and is the fourth best player from the state of Georgia.

At his height, he is the perfect size for the prototypical small forward in the Big Ten, and even more impressive is his athleticism, playmaking, and ability to finish. He would not be the Malcolm Hill-type forward that we have been accustomed to over the last few seasons, but that is not a bad thing.

Nolley’s game fits in perfectly with Underwood’s quick, high-tempo scheme that utilizes speed and athleticism on both sides of the floor. Nolley is big enough and long enough to be a plus-defender as well as someone who can finish at the rim with ease. Not to mention, he has also flashed a really nice jump shot that he seems to hit from anywhere on the floor.

Nolley is set to be in Champaign Friday through Sunday night. On Tuesday he tweeted out a schedule of what his visit will include. The schedule is as follows:

Friday

  1. Arrive in Champaign
  2. Photoshoot
  3. Tour of State Farm Center

Saturday

  1. Watch team workout
  2. Football game vs. Ball State
  3. Campus Tour

Sunday

  1. Academic presentation
  2. Basketball breakdown presentation
  3. Flight home

As shown by the schedule, Underwood and his staff are pulling out all of the stops in hopes of making a strong first impression with the talented forward. But, the competition to land Nolley is no walk in the park. He currently holds offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wichita State, among others.

Last week, Nolley announced the five schools he would be taking official visits to, which included Illinois, UConn, Oklahoma State, Georgia and Virginia Tech. Of the five, Virginia Tech is the only school that has not offered yet, according to rivals.com.

As far as Nolley’s Illinois recruitment goes, it was somewhat of a surprise that they were named among his top five teams. Obviously he is one of their high targets that Underwood has heavily pursued, but in previous reports about the 2018 recruitment he was never among one of the names mentioned as highly interested. But, that being said, making his top five is huge for the program.

Underwood has faced his fair share of recruiting battles since his arrival, but this one in particular will be one of the more interesting battles in my opinion. Since Nolley was slightly less expected than say, somebody like Ayo Dosunmu, it’s tough to say how Underwood is approaching this. But, at the same time, I think the Illini have a lot to sell that Nolley will be interested in, one of those things being early playing time.

If Underwood and Co. can land a commitment out of Nolley, he could be an essential piece of the 2018 recruiting class. Along with some of the other big Illini targets, Nolley is a great talent for Underwood to build around and really gives him assurance on both sides of the floor.

Underwood is known for his offensive efficiency with teams, but much of that stems from being able to play a strong game on both sides of the floor. Nolley has the potential to be one of those guys who can be an anchor for both ends, and provide some positive contributions any time he is in the game.

Adding him to a group of freshman this year that includes the likes of Mark Smith, Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, Greg Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel, and the Illini have the potential to be a very dangerous team much quicker than some might think.

All we can do at this point is hope that the football team can do their part and pull out a win over the Ball State Cardinals this Saturday, and watch Underwood and the boys (we need a nickname for the coaching staff ASAP) work their magic.

@TPolc
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