Under John Groce the Illini have became quite well known for being right in the thick of things with marquee recruits, only to fall just short as their target ultimately choices to go to school somewhere else. This game of cat and mouse was particularly problematic at point guard, with Illinois striking out repeatedly before landing three-star point guard Te'Jon Lucas. While Lucas was only deciding between Illinois, USC and UIC (not exactly huge schools compared to a lot of the other Illinois targets), Lucas is seen as a rising prospect and will be the true point guard that Groce desperately needed for next season.
Now the next target Illinois is all in on is four-star small forward Xavier Sneed. The top 100 prospect from Missouri visited campus about a month ago and will now be deciding between the Illini, Kansas State and Xavier. So far the Illini have a pretty bare 2016 class, with only Lucas currently committed, so the addition of Sneed would help round out a relatively thin recruiting class so far. Considering everyone Illinois has missed out on so far, and the fact that landing guys like Charlie Moore and Zach Norvell seem less likely now, Sneed is one of the last marquee targets for Illinois. While they'll probably add another player or two, the likelihood of having someone of his caliber isn't a strong possibility.
Sneed's ability as a dynamic wing would fit in pretty well with what Groce runs at Champaign and would give a weapon on the perimeter for incoming point guard Te'Jon Lucas. Hopefully in what's not a bad omen for the Illini, Sneed actually visited the same weekend that Xavier Simpson did. If you remember what transpired with Simpson, he unexpectedly decided to head to Ann Arbor.
As of now it's projected that Sneed will end up at Illinois, so now Groce just has to hope that he closed the deal. Sneed's athleticism and ability to defend opposing wings would be two major skills Illinois would love to add and the reality is the 2016 class is likely going to be on the thinner side, so there are only so many more talented options for Groce to bring in for next season. The team had a pretty solid 2015 class, even if their top prospect has been injured all summer (Jalen Coleman-Lands), but while 2017 should be a more sizable class, Groce still would benefit to amp up his next recruiting class.
Illinois has developed a bit of a tradition of missing out on their targets, even when they're one of the finalists. While it took Groce awhile to land a point guard, they finally picked one up in Te'Jon Lucas and if Groce could land back-to-back recruits than that would be a nice turn in momentum for the coach as he finally starts to land some of his targets. Sneed won't make or break Illinois in the future, but the reality is if he heads elsewhere it's likely to lead Illinois scrambling to finish out their 2016 class. If he ends up coming to Champaign, Sneed will bring plenty of athleticism, defense and the ability to score from the perimeter, adding a potentially well-rounded weapon to the team's arsenal.