Quiet recruiting weekend might have been what Illinois basketball needed with Kigab

Illinois+head+coach+John+Groce+watches+his+team+from+the+sidelines+during+the+game+against+Rutgers+at+the+State+Farm+Center+on+February+17.+The+Illini+won+82-66.

Lily Katz

Illinois head coach John Groce watches his team from the sidelines during the game against Rutgers at the State Farm Center on February 17. The Illini won 82-66.

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

This weekend felt like a game of ‘Where’s Waldo’ for Illinois basketball.

But instead of searching for a man with glasses wearing a red and white striped shirt, people were searching for 6-foot-7-inch Abu Kigab. Or maybe people weren’t searching at all.

Kigab took an official visit to Illinois this weekend. The four-star wing from Napa, California was the only basketball recruit on campus, and it was hard to get a gauge on his whereabouts this weekend.

Twitter timelines remained relatively inactive with news about Kigab. Fans, analysts, scouts and Kigab himself weren’t tweeting too much about the visit. One picture confirmed that Kigab attended the Illinois football game with Illini basketball head coach John Groce.

This weekend certainly didn’t possess as much flare as last week when five-star recruit Kris Wilkes visited. Kigab wasn’t joined by any other basketball commits or other recruits, didn’t have Illinois fans crashing a practice and couldn’t attend a primetime football game.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    But maybe that’s just the type of person Kigab is. Maybe his personality reflects the type of player he is — modest and fundamentally sound. He doesn’t need an extravagant stage to receive a recruiting pitch.

    Two weeks ago Kigab went on an official visit with Oregon. Many analysts and scouts are predicting Oregon to be Kigab’s top choice. But even during his weekend at his “top school” in Eugene, Oregon, Kigab’s timeline was idle. Only one photo surfaced from his visit, and there wasn’t much else.

    Maybe the calmer weekend for Kigab was intentional. So, there’s a chance this was still a successful weekend for Groce and Kigab.

    Hopefully, Kigab had a chance to spend time with forward Malcolm Hill. Kigab would help plug the hole that Hill will leave when he graduates after this season. Kigab’s game is somewhat similar to Hill’s — both don’t need to be flashy to be effective.

    Much like Hill, Kigab has a strong sense for the game. He knows where to be on offense and defense and isn’t afraid to bang with bodies down low. He crashes the glass and appears to be a team player.

    As a recruit, Hill was also listed as a four-star and was ranked as the No. 22 best shooting guard in the nation. Kigab is ranked as the No. 26 best small forward.

    Kigab is ranked No. 136 in the nation according to 247sports.com and would boost Groce’s already impressive class of 2017 that is ranked No. 3.

    Kigab has now completed two official visits and has one more on his calendar with California during the weekend of Oct. 7. His top-six schools, announced Aug. 3, include Oregon, Illinois, California, UCLA, Tennessee and USC.

    It’s going to be a while until Kigab makes up his mind. My guess is Kigab will schedule visits with UCLA, Tennessee and USC before making a final decision. This could be by the end of the year or sometime this spring.

    Hopefully, the other schools on his list bring some noise during their pitches because the quiet weekend in Champaign might be a good sign after all.

    Matt is a Junior in Business

    [email protected]

    @MattGertsmeier