John Groce & Illini Are On The Board In 2017 With Commitment From Downstate Wing

By Roy & Harv Schmidt

January 16, 2016

8:30 P.M. CST

Most national recruiting analysts still don't know who he is.  But Illinois Prep Bulls-eye knows.  More importantly,  University Of Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham knew, long before any other D1 college coach.  And it is for that reason that the Illini have secured their first commitment in their 2017 recruiting class, as 6'5 wing forward Javon Pickett from East High School in Belleville, IL pledged to head coach John Groce today while on campus for an unofficial visit which included taking in the Illini men's basketball game versus Nebraska.

The bottom line is that Illinois was the first high major program to offer Pickett a scholarship, having done so in early August of last year.  From then until now, no other high majors even entered the recruiting picture.  As a result, the Illini had been perceived as the runaway leader for Pickett's services for the past five months, making his eventual commitment pretty much inevitable.

To carry things a step further, Parham was the first D1 coach to recognize Pickett's abilities and identify him as a high major recruiting target, having done so last Spring at the NIKE Spring Showdown in Romeoville, IL.  That is what got the ball rolling in terms of Illinois' involvement with Pickett and sent a loud and clear message that they would be a major player.  Coinciding with that, Illinois Prep Bulls-eye was also the first scouting service to recognize Pickett as a potential high major recruit and top 10 2017 prospect in Illinois (

From there, assistant coach Jamall Walker took over and served as the lead recruiter for Pickett.  Walker was relentless in his pursuit, sticking to Pickett like glue at major travel team events throughout last Spring and Summer.  Needless to say, he was instrumental in enabling Groce and the Illini to close the deal.

Pickett was outstanding during both the April and July Evaluation Periods while competing for the Southwest Illinois Jets 16-Under squad.  He has a non-stop motor, a high level of athleticism and a work ethic that allows him to get it done with reckless abandon around the basket and go to war game in and game out.

 In addition, Pickett utilizes his long wing span at the defensive end and consistently converts mid-range pullups.  What it all adds up to is a player who currently ranks as our #7 prospect in Illinois from the 2017 class with the potential to climb even higher.

There is no question that Pickett is a great start to the Illini's 2017 recruiting class and his commitment is a highly significant one.  Above all else, it gets the ball rolling for the possibility of more 2017 recruits following suit and committing to the Illini.

As most everyone knows, the list of 2017 recruits that Groce and the Illini coaching staff is currently involved with is endless.  It includes 6'10 center Jeremiah Tilmon from LaLumiere School in La Porte, IN; 6'1 point guard Alonzo Verge from Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, FL; 6'4 combo guard Da'Monte Williams from Manual High School in Peoria, IL; 6'3 2-guard Jordan Goodwin from Althoff High School in Belleville, IL; 6'6 wing forward Christian Negron from Larkin High School in Elgin, IL; 6'7 wing forward Justin Smith from Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL; 6'6 point guard Nojel Eastern from Evanston Township High School in Evanston, IL and 6'4 point guard Paul Scruggs from Southport High School in Indianapolis, IN.  At the present time, we believe that Illinois stands a reasonably good chance with all of them.  


We welcome comments regarding this story or any other entry published by Illinois Prep Bulls-eye.  They can be made by e-mailing us at

Continue to check in with Illinois Prep Bulls-eye for all of the latest as it pertains to high school basketball and recruiting in Illinois.