CHAMPAIGN — In a span of just a few hours on Friday, the Illinois men’s basketball team went from surefire top-10 recruiting class on par with the top programs in the country to a squad that had picked up a pair of good recruits.
While the Fighting Illini fan base expressed several levels of emotion with guard Quentin Snider of Louisville, decommitting from Illinois and signing with his hometown Louisville Cardinals. And, then there was the hat fiasco with Chicago Curie standout Cliff Alexander, who originally grabbed the Illinois hat before dropping it and putting on the Kansas cap.
Both of those situations created a firestorm on internet message boards, but that’s now what caught the eye of Illinois coach John Groce.
So on Saturday, as Groce got the opportunity to introduce his recruiting class of Leron Black, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Memphis, Tenn., and Michael Finke, the 6-9 forward from Champaign Centennial, he also wanted to set the record straight.
The second-year coach questioned a story and headline in a Chicago-based newspaper that basically stated the University of Illinois was “put in its place.”
“I’m going to tell you what place it’s in,’’ said Groce referring to the University of Illinois. “It’s in a great place, that’s what place its in. In the last 20 months, from the time we started March 29, 2012 until now, we have made strides and improvements in a lot of areas. The assistant coaches and the players that we had last year, as well as the ones we have this year, deserve a lot of credit, a lot of credit.
“In fact, darn near all of the credit. They have initiated and ignited a switch that have given us an opportunity to build something special at the University of Illinois.’’