Mar 24, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce reacts in the second half during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament against the Miami Hurricanes at the Frank Erwin Center. Miami beat Illinois 63-59. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Matthews Picks Kentucky, What's Next For the Illinois Fighting Illini?

For the second time this season, fans of the Illinois Fighting Illini found themselves heartbroken as another Top 5 in-state recruit picked a team outside the state of Illinois.

This time, it was the 2015 shooting guard Charles Matthews who chose to commit to John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats over John Groce and the Illinois Fighting Illini. Matthews is a junior at St. Rita High School and is currently the top ranked recruit from the state of Illinois.

This commitment might not hurt as much as Cliff Alexander’s decision to commit to Kansas over Illinois, but this one still hurts.

Why are these big name Chicago recruits deciding to go elsewhere to play their college ball than with the Fighting Illini? Illini fans might have got their answer to this question from Matthews following his decision on Wednesday.

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

According to Chris Fisher of, Matthews had this to say about why he committed to Calipari’s Wildcats over Groce’s Illini:

“He’s [Calipari] done a lot for Chicago so I hope I can be the next one.”

This is true. John Calipari has been able to do great things with top ranked Chicago recruits.

He went to the National Championship in 2008 with Derrick Rose at Memphis and won the 2012 National Title with Anthony Davis at Kentucky.

This makes sense, and Illini fans cannot blame Matthews for wanting to go with the coach who has had success with Chicago recruits. However, Illini fans should not be content with this going forward.

Maybe it’s because I live in the Chicago area, but the way I see it, John Groce needs to rope off the “State of Chicago.”

It’s pretty clear that some of the best basketball talent comes out of Chicago. Why let these recruits leave your state for other programs?

In this situation, I cannot help but think of Howard Schnellenberger and the Miami Hurricane football program from 1979-1983.

Schnellenberger came in as head coach of the Hurricanes and completely turned around that football program by roping off the “State of Miami.”

Yes, football recruiting is different than basketball recruiting and the times were different back then, but Groce can take a page out of Schnellenberger’s book when it comes to Illinois’ recruiting.

Groce needs to sell that the Illini ARE the state of Illinois’ team. These Chicago recruits should be thinking, “why go to other non-Illinois programs and compete against each other? Let’s just go to the Illini and win together!”

Don’t get me wrong. John Groce has done wonders for the Fighting Illini since his hiring before last season. However, the big name Chicago recruits have eluded him.

Maybe future big name Chicago recruits will see what Groce is doing with Chicago guys like Kendrick Nunn and will want to play for the Orange & Blue.

However, the bottom line is that John Groce should begin to rope off the “State of Chicago.”

What do you think, Illini Nation? Should John Groce rope off the “State of Chicago?” How important are Chicago recruits to Illinois’ future success?

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.

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Tags: Basketball Charles Matthews Illinois Fighting Illini Recruiting

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