Illinois basketball recruiting East Coast backcourt for 2026

Illinois basketball has secured top players for 2024 and 2025. Now the Illini are recruiting a couple of talented guards for the class of 2026.
Illinois v Maryland
Illinois v Maryland / G Fiume/GettyImages

There are no days off for the Illinois basketball coaching staff, as we are trying to build for the future.

Despite just falling to a bad Penn State team, the Illini got off the mat and are fighting for the future. I fully expect a big-time rebound game on Saturday against Iowa. While the team prepares for the weekend, Illinois is also preparing for future seasons.

To win games moving forward, Illinois needs talent. We need to continue adding talented players in each recruiting class. The class of 2026 is no exception.

On Thursday, Derek Murray of The Scouting Service reported that Illini assistant coach Geoff Alexander was on the East Coast doing some recruiting. Alexander was out watching Chidi Nwigwe and Deron Rippey Jr., both from the class of 2026.

Illinois basketball has been doing well on the recruiting trail

While Rippey is a newer name to the Illini recruiting focus, Nwigwe is someone who the coaching staff has been keeping an eye on for the past few months.

Illinois took a visit to watch Nwigwe play back in January. At that time, the talented four-star recruit mentioned the Illini as one of his top programs and said, “They’ve been really trying to recruit me. I’d love to get in contact with them, and it’s definitely a school I’d love to go to.”

Both players would be big additions for the Illini. Nwigwe is a 6-foot-7, 195-pound guard who is rated as a four-star recruit. He is also the No. 21 player in the class of 2026 and the No. 6 shooting guard in the country. Rippey would make for a nice one-two punch with Nwigwe. The 6-foot, 170-pound point guard is rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 39 player in the class of 2026. He is also the No. 5 point guard in the country.

Brad Underwood and his coaching staff have really started to hit the recruiting trail hard again. After a class of 2023 that has some quality talent but didn’t rank too highly, No. 29 in the nation, Underwood has made some splash additions.

Illinois’ class of 2024 ranks No. 19 in the nation, and we have one of the best players in the country coming in with the addition of Morez Johnson Jr. He ranks as the No. 27 player in the recruiting class.

The Illini then secured a commitment from one of the top point guards in the country with Jeremiah Fears pledging back in late January. He is the No. 45 player in the class of 2025.

Adding top 50 recruits in back-to-back recruiting classes should bear fruit for the Orange and Blue. Underwood and his coaching staff are trying to add more top talent to the 2026 class as well.

Next. 5 painful observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Penn State. 5 painful observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Penn State. dark