Villanova veteran guard Dylan Ennis will visit University of Illinois later this week as he makes his final visits in preparation for his official senior transfer. Ennis, who averaged 9.9 PPG and 3.7 RPG last season with the Wildcats, has listed Illinois, Baylor and Oregon as the final three schools he is considering for his one remaining year of eligibility. He is scheduled to visit Champaign on Thursday and Friday, in between trips to Waco and Eugene.
Illinois is already returning senior guard Tracy Abrams this coming season after he missed the entirely of 2014-2015 with a torn ACL. However, the Illini still could use another solid player at the point. While PG Jaylon Tate will be entering his junior year with the program, there remain questions about his ability to safely and consistently handle the basketball. He has also struggled mightily shooting the three ball, something Ennis brings to the table (36.3% last season). Ennis has also expressed his desire to play the "true point" position, focusing more on distributing the ball than scoring it and could be a huge help improving Illini ball movement.
Given Ennis is a Chicagoland native, it seems the Fighting Illini would have a decent shot at landing him. However, many experts believe Oregon is the clear favorite for the senior. After losing their best player, point guard Joseph Young, the Ducks are seriously in need of an effective playmaker that can handle the ball. This could be huge for a team that many don't believe will make the NCAA tournament in 2016.
Baylor too has needs in the backcourt. They lost senior Kenny Chery to graduation and are now looking to add depth at the 1. The Bears still have Lester Metford returning to play his senior year at point, but a little bit of veteran leadership is never a bad thing. Scott Drew has put together a solid program that is clearly on the rise, and Ennis has the opportunity to be apart of it.
When Ennis visits Champaign-Urbana on Thursday and Friday, Illinois head coach John Groce will need to work some of his recruiting magic. After missing out on some of the bigger recruits in years past, Groce was able to land Charlotte big man transfer Mike Thorne Jr. last week. If Groce were able to get Ennis and Thorne to commit in the same offseason, it would provide the Fighting Illini with huge momentum entering 2015-2016. Illinois has missed the tournament in back to back years for the first time in over 20 years and is looking to get back next winter.
Illinois is also currently pursuing Morgan Park high school guard Marcus LoVett. LoVett, a top 125 player in the nation, is also weighing offers from St. John's, DePaul and UIC. 247.com currently has the crystal ball predicting LoVett to commit to Illinois with 44% certainty. St. John's is a close second with 38%. While LoVett's decision is not expected until later May, it could hinge on where Ennis chooses to attend. It is extremely unlikely that Illinois would land both players.
While LoVett does not have the proven skillset of Ennis, he could be a possible building block for the Illini program. Illinois has lacked a productive point guard in recent memory with Ahmad Starks being a bust of sorts and Abrams presenting a lack of stability. If LoVett chooses to come to Illinois, he will certainly have a large role to play in John Groce's guard centric offense. He is not expected to announce his decision until mid-May.