Bruce Weber formally welcomes another top recruiting class to Illinois today when basketball’s early signing period begins.
The class includes Jereme Richmond, a 6-5 forward from Waukegan; Meyers Leonard, a 6-11, 215-pound center from Robinson, and Crandall Head, a 6-5 guard from Rich South.
All are considered four-star recruits. Richmond is ranked 36th among the nation’s seniors by Rivals.com. Leonard rose to 39th and Head at 81st. Richmond, who committed to Illinois while a high school freshman, is projected as a small forward. Head, the younger brother of former Illini star Luther Head, is projected as a shooting guard or combo guard. Head is expected to be sidelined by a major knee injury this season.
In other Illini basketball news:
* Jeff Jordan will miss Illinois’ first two games because he played in a non-sanctioned 3-on-3 last summer, the NCAA has ruled. The junior guard will miss Illinois’ opener against SIU-Edwardsville Friday and Northern Illinois on Tuesday, and will be eligible to return against Presbyterian on Nov. 21. Jordan had quit the program last spring before returning this fall.
“It was an innocent thing,” Weber said. “We feel bad for Jeff.”
* It’s looking more and more like freshman guard Joseph Bertrand will redshirt. Bertrand, who underwent knee surgery in September, won’t play in Illinois’ early games to protect his redshirt status. The knee needs rest, but if Bertrand rests it, he loses valuable practice time in what’s shaping up as a very competitive situation for playing time.
* Jordan’s absence will give Weber more minutes to spread around as he tries to settle on a starting lineup and a rotation.
Four starting jobs look solid, with freshman guard D.J. Richardson joining the three returning junior starters–Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. The final-starter position is shaping up as a battle betwen junior Alex Legion, freshman Brandon Paul and senior Dominique Keller.
Legion, who has a big offensive upside but must dig in on defense, would add an explosive dimension. Paul, who played well as a starter in the final exhibition game against Quincy, has a bright future. And Keller is a bit unorthodox, but brings energy and a knack for scoring when he’s on his game.
In the end, look for the players to sort things out by delivering when they have opportunities.
“It could be matchups,” Weber said. “It could be how they’re doing that week. Maybe someone is better coming off the bench. Or do we have all of our better offensive players in at one time? That’s our biggest dilemma right now. That’s what we have to figure out.”