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Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois searches for answers after Jordan Goodwin picks Saint Louis

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

On Friday afternoon, Illinois got some tough news as Jordan Goodwin opted to commit to St. Louis over the Illini and other programs. Goodwin was one of Illinois’ top targets in the 2017 class, and his decision puts the team in a tricky place heading forward.

Naturally, Goodwin got so much attention due to his ability to get to the hoop. He came out of Belleville, Illinois, and was rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 player in the state in the 2017 class by 247Sports.

Unfortunately for Illini fans, this disappointing news shouldn’t come as a surprise. Reports started surfacing earlier this week that Goodwin could be trending in the wrong direction. Several recruiting insiders reported that the Illini no longer appeared to be in the driver’s seat.

What’s particularly disappointing about the decision is that Illinois and head coach John Groce have shown a renewed presence in the state of Illinois over the last few years. Two of the team’s 2017 commitments come out of the Prairie State, and the program added two more in-state commits in its talented 2015 class.

In other words, a commitment from Goodwin would have continued a great recent trend for the program and set up a strong foundation for next season. Groce has built a young and talented roster in Champaign, and Goodwin would have been a great addition to that group.

Of course, even with Goodwin committing elsewhere, the Illini do have quality options left for a final spot in its 2017 class. Admittedly, maybe they don’t come with the same ratings as Goodwin or his in-state ties, but they do project to be solid players at the next level.

Illinois is still in on Nojel Eastern, Abu Kigab and Christian Negron, who are really talented options on the wing. Eastern and Negron are both rated as top-10 prospects in the state of Illinois, and Kigab is a four-star himself. None of these three project to exactly the same role as Goodwin, but any would still be great additions.

Along with those two, Illinois could also add another guard, either Trent Frazier or C.J. Roberts. Neither is a great fit with Damonte Williams already committed at the point guard position, but if Groce really wants another guard, Frazier or Roberts could be potential options.

Undoubtedly, those are some really talented potential replacements for Goodwin. Some of those targets are actually rated higher than current Illinois commits. However, there’s also another side to these options: None are sure-fire additions for the Illini.

Obviously, recruiting is always a moving target and no prospect is a “lock” for any program, but there are at least some recruits who lean a certain way. Despite Illinois recruiting the above group, the only target who appears to be a very realistic option at this point is Kigab.

Whether it’s because of other programs increasing their attention or Illinois backing off, the truth is that the Illini could miss out on all of those potential options. In short, putting such an emphasis on Goodwin could leave them behind on the recruitment of the others.

All told, Friday represents a tough day for Groce and Illinois. Momentum in the state of Illinois appeared to be trending in the right direction, but with Goodwin committing elsewhere, the program will have to invest serious time and resources in the next months to compensate for this loss on the recruiting trail.

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