As the news of the offseason draws nearly to a stop, it’s always an interesting task to take a step back and see how some of the predictions of the past turned out. In our latest series, BTPowerhouse will look at the impact the 2013 recruiting classes had on each Big Ten program.
Today we look at the Illinois Fighting Illini and the program’s recruiting class from five years ago.
The Illini entered the 2013-’14 season with plenty of momentum. John Groce was coming off his first season with the program and had led the Illini to the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 appearance in year one. This was big news as the team had missed the Tournament in three of the five preceding seasons. And with some key pieces returning, things looked bright for the future of Illinois.
But of course, if Groce was going to turn that NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013 into long-term success, he would need to do some work on the recruiting trail. Many say that new coaches are defined by their first full recruiting class and the 2013 recruiting class would be just that for Groce.
Let’s take a look at their 2013 class and how they did.
-Austin Colbert - Power Forward (No. 113 on 247Sports)
Rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 113 player in the nation, Austin Colbert arrived on campus with a considerable amount of hype. He had offers from numerous other major programs, including Miami (FL), Seton Hall, and Villanova. He was expected to make an impact upfront alongside Egwu.
However, despite spending two seasons with the Illini, Colbert only provided mixed results for the team. He played in 47 games, but averaged only 6.6 minutes per game. In fact, during the 2014-’15 season, there was a eight-game span during Big Ten play where he only saw one minute of action. He then transferred to Old Dominion. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing end for a player that was projected to make a major impact for the Illini during his career.
-Malcolm Hill - Shooting Guard (No. 70 on 247Sports)
One of two top 100 prospects to commit to the Illini in 2013, Malcolm Hill arrived with a great deal of hype. Most hoped that he could become an instant contributor off the bench and develop into a star for the program. After all, if he could develop his diverse skillset, Hill projected to be able to play multiple positions at an extremely high level.
Undoubtedly, Hill turned out to be the best player in the program’s 2013 class. Not only did he spend four seasons with the Illini, but he finished his career with 1,846 points, 647 rebounds, and 281 assists. If it weren’t for the fact that Illinois never made an NCAA Tournament with Hill on the roster, he would routinely be regarded as one of the program’s greatest players of all-time.
-Maverick Morgan - Center (No. 137 on 247Sports)
Although Morgan was not a top 100 prospect out of high school, he was still a four-star and ranked No. 137 in the nation when he arrived on campus. He was billed as an big man that could be versatile on the offensive end, if he developed. The question would be whether he could develop his shot and hold up on the defensive end.
Despite four seasons with the Illini, Morgan never turned into the player that fans had hoped to see when he arrived. He averaged less than 10 minutes a game during his first two seasons and never averaged over 10 points a game during his career. He was productive in his final season, but never turned into anything close to a star.
-Kendrick Nunn - Shooting Guard (No. 56 on 247Sports)
As the top rated player in the program’s 2013 recruiting class, Nunn arrived on campus with high hopes. He was a skilled backcourt player with an excellent handle that had the ability to shoot. If he could refine his play a bit and get stronger in the lane, Nunn had the chance to be something special for the team.
Unfortunately for Illinois, Nunn’s career was a mix of good and bad. During three seasons, he played in 96 games and averaged 10.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, including 15.5 points as a junior. However, he was kicked off the team following his junior season due to some off court trouble. As such, it’s difficult to actually place Nunn’s career. He was productive, but came with some baggage.
-Jaylon Tate - Point Guard (No. 237 on 247Sports)
As the lowest rated member of team’s recruiting class, Tate arrived on campus without the hype of many of his fellow freshmen. The hope was that he could fill a reserve role early on and gradually develop into a key role player as an upperclassmen.
During his career, Tate was a consistent player, but was never able to move beyond a bench and rotational piece. Although he averaged 20.4 minutes per game as a sophomore, this was largely due to depth issues for the Illini. Tate became a respectable bench option. Nothing more and nothing less.
Based upon the hype that surrounded the 2013 recruiting class for Illinois, it’s hard to believe that this class lived up to expectations. Of the five players, two transferred out without exhausting their eligibility and two others spent the vast majority of their careers stuck to the bench.
However, the bright spot of this group was certainly Hill, who turned into one of the best Illini players of all-time. Given the uncertainty of recruiting, perhaps that alone is enough to outweigh some of the struggles elsewhere. Either way, if Groce had been able to get just a bit more out of this class, perhaps he would still be coaching in Champaign heading into next season.