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2015 Scholarship Series: Illinois Fighting Illini

The Illini add five players to fill out the roster to end the two-year streak of NIT appearances to return to The Big Dance.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Scholarship

Player

Years of Eligibility Left

1

Tracy Abrams

1

2

Mike LaTulip

1

3

Mike Thorne Jr.

1

4

Jaylon Tate

2

5

Kendrick Nunn

2

6

Malcolm Hill

2

7

Darius Paul

2

8

Maverick Morgan

2

9

Leron Black

3

10

Jalen Coleman-Lands

4

11

Aaron Jordan

4

12

D.J. Williams

4

13

Michael Finke

4

After an extended hiatus, the Scholarship Series is finally back and will be for the duration of the remaining 11 schools that we have yet to cover. Believe me folks, I don't know how I haven't been fired yet either.

Speaking of people whose seat may be a little hot under the cushion, let's resume this series with John Groce and the Illinois FIghting Illini. 2015-2016 is not necessarily a make-or-break season for Groce, who is entering his fourth season in Champaign-Urbana, but the Illini have yet to achieve a winning record in conference during his tenure. Add in the fact that the last two seasons have ended in the NIT for Illinois, one has to wonder how long the fan base will show its' support for Groce.

2014-2015 saw Illinois plagued by injuries and suspensions, so much so that Groce was forced to dress a student manager during the regular season. The team lost four of its final six regular-season games before suffering a blowout loss in the 8-9 match-up of the Big Ten Tournament and sealing the Illini's fate as a NIT team.

Tracy Abrams will return from a preseason ACL injury suffered last September. The senior guard averaged over 10 and a half points per game each of his last two seasons played. Juniors Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn return after being the team's second and third leading scorers respectively. Hill dropped 14.4 points per game while Nunn contributed 11.1 points per game. Joining Abrams, these two contribute to the plethora of scoring guards the Illini will have at their disposal in the upcoming season.

Illinois added Charlotte transfer, big man Mike Thorne Jr., who will use his final year of eligibilty in 2015-16. Thorne averaged 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season and will join Maverick Morgan and Leron Black down low as Groce and company try to fill the gap left by Nnanna Egwu.

Darius Paul, younger brother of former Illinois standout Brandon Paul, has transferred to the Illini for the second time. The 2012-13 MAC Freshman of the year sat out the 2013-2014 following his initial transfer. Paul was suspended for the entirety of last season following a charge for underage drinking and an attempt to acquire club drugs. Rather than sitting out a second straight season, Paul decided to play a year at junior college Lamar State.

Finally, Illinois adds one of the top recruiting classes in the nation with Jalen Coleman-Lands and Aaron Jordan plus forward D.J. Williams, all of whom received four-star ratings across the board.