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Illini Feeling Confident After Alexander's Visit

Illinois basketball hopes to add top recruit Cliff Alexander

The fighting Illini may have a promising future ahead of them.

The ESPN #3 recruit from the class of 2014 and Chicago native Cliff Alexander took his official visit to Illinois University this past weekend and the outcome seemed positive. The Illini have not gotten a top five recruit to commit and stay committed since Marcus Liberty, also a Chicago native, signed on in 1987 as the top high school prospect. Recent top high school stars of the past such as Shannon Brown, Derrick Rose, and Eric Gordon have considered Illinois as a top choice, but ended up choosing other schools. Brown chose Michigan State, Rose chose Memphis, and Gordon chose Indiana. However, many see Alexander’s deciding in favor of Illinois.

The high school phenom has been to the university on numerous occasions, but still wanted to have this official visit last weekend. The campus and surrounding community were excited to say the least. Alexander received chants in his honor while attending the homecoming football game and even received a tweet from the mayor of Champaign that read, “Welcome to the ‘Paign.” Those around Alexander say it was clear he enjoyed the visit.

People close to him also had promising words to say. Alexander’s mother, Latilla, definitely had a positive reaction towards the community and the team’s coaching staff. In regards to the coaching staff she said: “They really make you feel like a family, and that plays an important part in our decision. I need to know that my son is going to be taken care of on and off the court.” Alexander’s current high school coach Mike Oliver also expressed his feelings on where he wants his top player to continue his career. He was quoted saying that if he had to make the decision for Alexander, he would choose Illinois or DePaul. "I think it's a shame the last 3-4 years we've had so many players in the NCAA tournament from the state of Illinois, but not playing in the state of Illinois," Oliver said.

If Alexander does decide to commit to Illinois the team will have the chance to build a dominate organization and potentially do something they have never done before; win a national championship. The fighting Illini came close back in 2005, but suffered a loss to North Carolina in the finals. Before that their last final four appearance was in 1989 when they lost to Michigan. 

Head coach John Groce added two promising guards from last year’s recruiting class in Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill. Nunn and Hill were ranked 61st and 66th respectively by ESPN’s top 100. The team already has talent with rising star guard Tracy Abrams. Abrams is entering his junior year with the Illini and led his team in steals and assists last season along with an average 10.6 ppg. If these three guards can play accordingly and Alexander decides to commit, Illinois can potentially find themselves back at the top. They also have returning big man Nnanna Egwu and freshman center Maverick Morgan who can add to post domination if Alexander ends up committing.

Regardless, Illinois will be at the top of Alexander’s list until the time comes to make his decision. Many believe his top two choices will be between Illinois and Kansas. He recently changed his announcement date to Friday, November 15 and it is planned to be broadcasted on ESPN.