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Illini hoops recruiting update: February 12

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Illini hoops recruiting update: February 12

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood watches his team from the sideline during the game against Indiana at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The Illini won 73-71.

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood watches his team from the sideline during the game against Indiana at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The Illini won 73-71.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood watches his team from the sideline during the game against Indiana at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The Illini won 73-71.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Brad Underwood watches his team from the sideline during the game against Indiana at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The Illini won 73-71.

By Thomas Polcyn, Illini hoops columnist

With NCAA Tournament hopes for head coach Brad Underwood’s inaugural season all but gone, Illinois basketball’s focus has shifted to finishing the year strong and shoring up the roster for seasons to come. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the top recruiting targets for Underwood and his staff.

Tevian Jones — 6-foot-6 SF — Culver City, California

Tevian Jones has been on the radar of Underwood and Co. for a while, and right now, he is priority No. 1. The four-star swingman has been having a phenomenal season, showcasing plenty of size, athleticism and even a nice little touch on his shot. Underwood and his staff have been in on Jones since the start, and adding his kind of athleticism at the small forward spot could go a long way for this young Illini team.

Jones is a player who can do it all, and on a team that currently lacks many players who can create their own shots — aside from Trent Frazier and Leron Black — Jones could do a lot of things. His length and athleticism would allow him to guard multiple positions, and his speed and finishing ability make him a threat from anywhere on the floor. Illinois’ only current commit — five-star point guard Ayo Dosunmu — has been in constant contact with Jones, and the duo seems to have formed a good relationship. It is unknown how much Dosunmu can help in the recruitment of Jones, but landing a wing like him would be a huge get for Underwood and the Illini.

Courtney Ramey — 6-foot-3 PG — St. Louis, Missouri

Courtney Ramey is a really interesting prospect and one that the Illini have snuck on to the radar for. The four-star guard was initially committed to Louisville, but has become one of the top priorities for Underwood and his staff in the search to add more depth and scoring ability at the guard spot.

With recent developments such as Tyger Campbell committing to UCLA and Ramey’s cancellation of a visit to Villanova, the Illini appear to be real players in Ramey’s recruitment and are hoping to get him on campus for a visit in the near future.

Ramey would add another great scoring guard to an already loaded backcourt, as well as plenty of leadership and winning experience. While he is not the purest shooter of any of the guards in Underwood’s stable, he would be able to create off of the dribble, helping to set up guys like Frazier or Dosunmu. While it is unclear when or if he will take a visit to Champaign, Ramey could be a huge get if the staff plays its cards right.

Demarius Jacobs — 6-foot-2 SG — Phoenix, Arizona

Jacobs was just offered over the weekend by Underwood and his staff, but could immediately make a huge impact if they can land him. The three-star small forward is an absolute monster at the rim, and he uses his immense athleticism to throw down ferocious dunks while finishing with a pretty smooth jumper as well. Jacobs plays AAU ball with Dosunmu for the Mac Irvin Fire, so the connection that is already there could go a long way in helping both players adjust to Big Ten basketball and help make an immediate impact.

As soon as the Illini offered, the crystal ball predictions on 247sports.com have all gone in favor of the Illini. While this is not always 100 percent accurate, it certainly is not a bad sign. Jacob’s athleticism and scoring ability help on both ends of the floor for the Illini. Though he is just 6-foot-2, his jumping ability and creativity in the paint allows him to score with ease, and he would be a nice option in Underwood’s system. While one hasn’t been announced, I would assume he will come out to Champaign sometime in the near future for a visit, allowing the Illini to make their final pitch. Jacobs very well could be the next signing in this class.

Bigs 

The biggest need all season has been more depth in the paint. Unfortunately, there is not a ton of depth out there, at least not in the class of 2018. With the current state of the big man market so desolate, it looks as though Illinois will have to find more help in the junior college or grad-transfer market.

There have been a couple of swings and misses among grad-transfers so far, but Underwood and his staff will continue to search in hopes of adding a couple pieces to immediately take the weight off of guys like Michael Finke and Black. I’d expect at least one more big man to come into the system next year, with the hope of more development from Kipper Nichols, Gregory Eboigbodin and Matic Vesel, who all add some size of their own.

@TPolc

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