2. JJ Taylor (5-star – #17 in 2023)
At one time, it felt like Illinois was one of the top dogs for JJ Taylor. In fact, if I remember correctly, he had mentioned the Illini were at the top of his list toward the end of 2021.
Taylor is a special talent who is going to instantly make any team he picks better. He is a 6-foot-8, 185-pound small forward who attends Donda Academy in Simi Valley, California, but he is from Chicago. He is rated as a five-star recruit and ranked as the No. 17 player in the class of 2023. Taylor is also the No. 4 small forward in the nation and the No. 4 player coming out of California.
Back in October 2021, Taylor visited Champaign and things seemed like they were going pretty well. I thought Illinois had a strong chance of landing Taylor at the time.
As time has gone on, the Taylor recruitment has gotten quieter. He transferred from Kenwood Academy out to Donda Academy in California, where he had a great sophomore campaign. Taylor also still plays his AAU ball with the Mac Irvin Fire in Chicago.
My biggest worry with Taylor is Kentucky. In early August, Zagsblog reported that Taylor and Donda teammate Jahki Howard was interested in playing together in college. Howard is a 2024 recruit, but in the article, they both talked about how Kentucky contacts both of them frequently.
Obviously, I would love Taylor and his talent is the reason he is No. 2 on my wish list. But it is going to be hard to beat Kentucky here. Taylor would be phenomenal with the Orange and Blue, though.