The Illinois basketball team and fan base didn’t have a very good Monday night.
One of the top targets for the Illini class of 2019, EJ Liddell, picked the school he is going to attend next season. Illinois fans had high hopes that he would choose the Orange and Blue but, via video, Liddell decided to go with Big Ten foe, Ohio State.
Liddell is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound power forward from Belleville West High School in Belleville, Illinois. He is rated as a four-star recruit who is the No. 57 player in the class of 2019 and the No. 10 power forward in the nation.
After his commitment and continuing into the next day, I see a lot of emotions flowing through the Twitter world. There are fan opinions on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. I am not here to tell you how to feel. Everyone feels differently about this situation. I am here to tell you how I feel about what I am seeing on social media and what the ramifications are of losing a player like Liddell.
Let’s start off with social media. I see some people bashing Liddell for his decision. I see some Illinois fans fighting with other Illinois fans about what is happening with the program. Are we serious here? A 17-year old kid picks Ohio State and all hell breaks loose? How about we grow up, act like adults, look at who is still out there for 2019 and root for the current team. There is no reason for fighting, name calling etc.
With that being said, let’s move on to the impact Liddell’s decision has on the program. Is this a big blunder for the current Illinois coaching staff? Well, that all depends on what the class of 2019 turns out to be.
Brad Underwood and the coaching staff have a chance to make this a pretty great class. There are still some pretty big targets remaining. If they land a few of these targets, then the Liddell snub doesn’t hurt as bad. On the surface, though, losing the top in-state recruit never looks good. This is a loss for the Illini staff but not the end of the world.
Illinois has a solid team right now with some great backcourt talent. Ayo Dosunmu – No. 1 player from 2018 who Underwood landed – is going to pair nicely with Trent Frazier. These two in the backcourt will be nightmares for opposing teams. Let’s also not forget the development that happened last season.
Kipper Nichols averaged 10 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year. He should be able to take another step in the right direction this season. And, Illinois has a pretty good class of 2018 coming in. Tevian Jones should be able to help right away. He is about the same size as Liddell and is a top 100 player.
In short, the Liddell commitment to Ohio State hurts. He is the top in-state kid, and he went to a Big Ten program. But, this has zero effect on the team this season. Pretty much all of the players this season will be returning in 2019. Let’s put some wins on the board this upcoming campaign and then knock the class of 2020 out of the park. That is how things will start to change on the recruiting front.