second story of a two-part package

CHAMPAIGN — National basketball recruiting analyst Van Coleman of puts an asterisk by the rankings of high school freshmen.

While it’s hard to project where a 14- or 15-year-old player’s game will be three or four or five years from now, some guys make it easy. Case in point: Jereme Richmond.

The freshman phenom at Winnetka North Shore Country Day, who committed to Illinois just one game into his high school career, will move to No. 3 in the nation among players in the 2010 class when Coleman updates his rankings before the busy July AAU swing.

“When Illinois watched him play, they saw what those of us have seen in him in watching him only two or three times,’’ Coleman said. “The only reason you offer a scholarship to a freshman is that through natural, normal development, you’re getting a player who can play for you.

“If that player has a desire to go beyond that, then you get a guy coming in who will make a major impact.’’

Illini coach Bruce Weber plans to continue to develop relationships with younger players.

“The longer you’re (at a school), the more you get to know people,’’ said Weber, who has coached the Illini for four seasons. “You get names and get people on campus. You know kids earlier, and you hope to get ahead of people and hope to get an early commitment.’’

Assistant coach Tracy Webster built relationships with coaches of younger AAU teams, thus building relationships with younger players. Webster first made contact with Richmond nearly two years before his commitment.

Illinois must work with recruiting classes that have become unbalanced.

The Illini have two scholarships to award to the class of 2008, although it would increase to three if CJ Jackson sticks on the football roster heading into preseason camp. Expect the Illini to begin shifting scholarships toward the class of 2010, beginning as early as this year.

Rather than filling every open scholarship each season, the Illini may begin to keep one open to push back toward 2010, a class in which the Illini currently have only one scholarship to give.

Jeremy Tyler of Chula Vista, Calif., and DeShaun Thomas of Fort Wayne, Ind., are the 2010 class’ top two players, Coleman said, and Richmond is a close third.

Coleman’s rankings will jumble over the next year or two. By the time players are high school juniors, their rankings will become more stable, Coleman said.

More of the younger talent will get exposure in the next two AAU summer seasons. Early rankings of this year’s freshman class are just scratching the surface, Coleman said, because many players haven’t yet hit the AAU circuit.

But analysts see Richmond’s game improving with his strength. Richmond is 6 feet 6, 190 pounds.

“He looks like a tremendous prospect,’’ said Dave Telep, the national recruiting analyst for “Clearly, he’s not done growing. He’s got a huge wingspan, and he looks so smooth. He’s just scratching the surface. If he doesn’t get any taller, he’ll have a skill package that equates to the high major level.’’

He averaged 30 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots at North Shore Country Day last winter. If Richmond grows to 6-9 or 6-10, as some have projected, his prospects and national ranking will jump because of his improving skill package.

“Right now, it’s impossible to say,’’ Telep said.

But, Telep added, “there’s no reason to worry about Jereme Richmond.’’



John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977 and For more Illini coverage, read Illini Talk blog at and