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October 26, 2012

Weekend visits: High on Illini


MORE: Wiggins makes move to 2013 | 2013 rankings

As signing day draws closer, the number of available players begins to dwindle. Still, there are some important visitors this weekend and places like Illinois and Villanova are among those hosting big groups while two of the nation's top three players -- Julius Randle and Jabari Parker -- will also make visits. Here's a look at some of the weekend's notable visitors and the buzz surrounding their visits.

Illini high

It's a big weekend at the University of Illinois. It's homecoming weekend for the Illini and on top of the football team being in town new hoops coach John Groce will take the floor for the first time with his team in a exhibition game Saturday.

Not surprisingly, the Illini staff has chosen to use this weekend as a big recruiting opportunity. To start with, commitments Jaylon Tate and Rivals150 big man Maverick Morgan will be on hand.

Also in town on an unofficial visit will be four-star shooting guard and future Illini Kendrick Nunn. While it's always good to have commits on campus and they'll be given plenty of attention, the group of underclassmen expected is quite impressive.

The group of visitors features several key Illini recruits and at or near the top of the list is the No. 21 junior in the nation Keita Bates-Diop from nearby Normal (Ill.) University. Another Rivals150 junior expected on campus is Champaign power forward Michael Finke.

The weekends visitors are rounded out by class of 2015 five-star Charles Matthews and his older brother Dominique Matthews, along with 2015 four-stars Hyron Edwards and D.J. Williams.

'Novamania running wild

As far as we can tell, Villanova tops the list when it comes to holding out the longest to host a "midnight madness"-type event. Friday night, Jay Wright and the Wildcats host their fan friendly Hoops Mania season opening festivities.

As is usually the case with these events, already committed seniors such as Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins will be on hand. The objects of their attention will be a pair of Rivals150-ranked big men.

The nation's No. 31 player, Tyler Roberson, will be taking his fourth official visit after seeing Syracuse, SMU and Kansas.

He's also been to Rutgers unofficially and will visit Kentucky next.

Joining Roberson as an official visitor will be top-100 big man Austin Colbert. Like Roberson, Colbert hails from New Jersey and is nearing the end of the recruiting process. Over the past week, Villanova has gained a lot of steam behind the scenes and are now in the thick of it for the 6-foot-9 big man along with Illinois, Miami and Seton Hall. Look for Colbert to make a decision soon after this weekend.

Also expected in Philadelphia on Friday night are four-star combo guard Phil Booth and four-star power forward Ben Bentil.

Notable visitors

The nation's second-ranked player continues his tour of schools. After earlier fall trips to Kentucky and Florida, 6-foot-9 five-star Julius Randle will head up I-35 from the Dallas area to Oklahoma for an unofficial visit.

While Randle will be in Norman, the No. 3 player in the country will take his second official visit. After checking out Michigan State last weekend, Jabari Parker will be in Durham to visit Duke.

The Spartans and Blue Devils have generally been considered the teams to beat but Florida -- where he visits next weekend -- has been making a pretty big move with the jumbo-sized small forward, while also being heavily involved with Randle.

Speaking of the Gators, big man Joel Embiid isn't yet ranked but that will change in the final rankings for the class of 2013.

The near seven-footer attends high school in Gainesville and Florida is considered the team to beat for his services. He needs strength but has been improving at an astronomical rate since picking up the game of basketball and moving to the States from Cameroon just over a year ago.

Five-star big man Austin Nichols will most likely announce his college decision within the next week or so. But before he makes his announcement, the 6-foot-8 forward from Memphis is making a trip to Auburn.

He was at Tennessee last weekend and is also considering Vanderbilt, Duke, Virginia and Memphis in what has become a very hotly contested recruitment.

Raleigh and Chapel Hill are only separated by about 30 miles, and both N.C. State and North Carolina will have four-star centers on campus.

Mark Gottfried and the Pack are as hot a team as there is on the recruiting trail and they're hoping to continue that with BeeJay Anya. The big man was at Indiana last weekend and the Hoosiers would seem to be the team to beat headed into his weekend visit to Raleigh.

While Anya is checking out State, homegrown product Kennedy Meeks will be finding out what Roy Williams and the Heels have to offer. Meeks has been considering waiting until spring to make a decision, but if ever there was a time that UNC will look to close with the space-eating big man it will be this weekend.

Maybe one of the more undervalued prospects in the country, 6-foot-6 do-it-all wing Brandon Austin from Philadelphia, will make his way to Austin to check out Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns. Ohio big man Devin Williams, who is finishing high school in Florida, makes his final official visit this weekend at Ohio State. Look for the physical big man to make a choice between the Buckeyes, Memphis and West Virginia shortly after his visit.

Rutgers will get visits from Rivals150 teammates Demetrius Henry and Deshaun Morman of Brandon (Fla.) Faith Baptist. Henry is lengthy and athletic big man while Morman is an explosive 6-foot-4 scorer.

Other weekend visitors include Illinois big man Andrew Zelis who is checking out Stetson, three-star point guard Jaylon Brown at Miami and three-star wing Kamall Richards at St. Joseph.

UAB will try to beat out Georgia and Mississippi State for Tosin Mehinti while Virginia Tech hosts shooter R.J. Currington and Virginia hosts former Florida commitment Schuyler Rimmer.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see either Currington or Rimmer commit after the weekend.



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