Illini recruiting watch: Elijah Thomas and Jalen Coleman


A busy basketball weekend on campus just got even busier.

Elijah Thomas, one of the best forwards in the country in the Class of 2015, was already set to visit campus this weekend. Now Jalen Coleman, another highly-ranked prospect, is scheduled to join him. Coleman is ranked as an elite combo guard in the 2015 class and is one of the best players in Indiana. It was reported by hoops247.com that Coleman will move his official visit to Illinois up a week, from Sept. 26 to this weekend.

Illinois has been recruiting Coleman hard as of late, and head coach John Groce watched Coleman work out at his high school in Indiana on Tuesday. Coleman was long thought to be a Notre Dame lean, but one Notre Dame recruiting outlet (@NDHoopsRecruits) has claimed on Twitter that the Irish have given up on Coleman altogether as of this week. He is also considering UNLV, but has already taken an official visit to the Las Vegas campus. With only two schools realistically still in play — Illinois and UNLV — it would be reasonable to expect a Coleman decision soon after his Illinois visit.

While Coleman has kept his recruitment close to the vest so far, Thomas is somewhat of a different story. He regularly teases fans on Twitter with shoutouts and retweets, with most feedback coming from Illini fans. Thomas also has a monthly blog published on USA Today’s website, which provides insight into his ongoing recruitment. He last updated his blog Wednesday and shed some light on what he enjoys most about each school.

Similar to other Illini recruits, Thomas sang the praises of Groce, crediting him with establishing a strong relationship between the two. Thomas had a lot of other positive thoughts about Illinois in his post, highlighted by anointing the Illini faithful “the best fan base (he’s) ever seen.”

Some Illinois fans worry that Thomas, the original star of the weekend, might feel overshadowed by the presence of Coleman on his visit. The reality is, scheduling these two visits at the same time is potentially a good move by Groce.

Much of Thomas’ blog outlined his desire to play alongside the other talented players at each school that is recruiting him, most notably stud prospect Ben Simmons at LSU. Since Thomas seems to want to surround himself with other top-flight talent, it is safe to assume he won’t mind sharing the weekend with Coleman. Having Coleman alongside him may even help Thomas visualize a brighter future and better situation if he were to pick Illinois. Thomas has also seriously entertained the idea of playing with fellow Illini recruit and friend Jawun Evans. So the more surrounding talent the Illini can offer, the better.

It’s not like Thomas should worry about being overshadowed, anyway. The forward from Lancaster High in Texas is ranked No. 29 on ESPN’s top 100 and features a smooth touch around the basket to complement his bruising rebounding and interior skills.

Thomas has a big personality to match his 6-foot-9, 255 pound frame. Aside from his constant fan interaction on social media, he comes off as bright and personable in interviews with the media. Look for Thomas to bask in the fan hysteria during his time on campus.

Coleman will be the third elite guard to visit campus this fall, with Evans and Jalen Brunson before him. Unlike the other two, Coleman is more of a shooting guard rather than a pure point. At 6-foot-3, he is comparable to a Brandon Paul-type player, but Coleman already possesses a quicker and more accurate jump shot than Paul.

Having both Coleman and Thomas on campus makes this one of the biggest recruiting weekends in recent memory for Illinois basketball. With Evans still in limbo in regard to his decision, Illini fans will once again be aching for a commitment during the weekend. You can be sure that Groce will push both Coleman and Thomas to commit this weekend, but whether they do is anyone’s guess.

We’ve seen the frenzy when one top-30 recruit visits campus. But two?

Prepare for twice the hype, twice the speculation and twice the fun.

Alex is a junior in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @aroux94.