Illini basketball signs four as signing period opens

By Nicholas Fortin

Staff writer

The Illinois men’s basketball team just got a whole lot deeper.

The Illini, who will return 12 players next year, had four players sign national letters of intent to play for Illinois on Wednesday. Transfer Darius Paul joined high school seniors Jalen Coleman-Lands, Aaron Jordan and D.J. Williams.

One of the most talked about signees of the Illinois recruiting class is Coleman-Lands, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Indianapolis, Indiana. Coleman-Lands is the highest-ranked of Illinois’ recruits according to the ESPN 100, where he is No. 34 in the country.

Illinois will bring in two freshmen shooting guards next season in Coleman-Lands and Jordan. Jordan is a four-star recruit from Plainfield, Illinois, and like Coleman-Lands, Jordan is 6-foot-4.

The signing of small forward Williams continued the Illini’s tie to Simeon Career Academy. Williams will become the third player on the roster from Simeon, along with Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn. Williams is 6-foot-7 native of Chicago and is the No. 50 player in the ESPN 100.

“When looking at what they bring to the court, I don’t know if there’s a class in the country with a better set of shooters than Jalen and Aaron,” Groce said in a press release. “They are lights-out from the perimeter. And D.J. is one of the most skilled and versatile players in the entire 2015 class. He can play practically anywhere on the floor.”

In addition to the three incoming freshmen, Illinois will welcome back Darius Paul next season. Paul, who is the younger brother of former Illini guard Brandon Paul, was on Illinois’ roster last season but sat out the year after transferring from Western Michigan. Paul was arrested in the spring and transferred to Lamar State College in Texas for a season.

“Regarding Darius, we have remained in communication with him and his family since he left last spring,” Groce said. “We are proud of the progress he has made both on and off the court. We look forward to his continued improvement and a successful return to our program.”

While Illinois wasn’t able to get commitments from any of the higher-profile recruits on its radar — like Jalen Brunson, Elijah Thomas or Jawun Evans — head coach John Groce put together a class that includes three four-star incoming freshman, according to ESPN, and a talented transfer in Paul, who garnered interest from other programs before deciding to return to Illinois.

Nicholas can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @IlliniSportsGuy.