Illini basketball

The Jalen Brunson Weekend

Dustin Ford, Paris Parham, Jamall Walker, Walter Offutt

In the long run, the biggest news from Labor Day Weekend 2014 will have little to do with Jalen Brunson: Allison Groce is expecting her third child. The due date is March 18, “right between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA’s” she notes.

And if Abraham* Groce does not choose to vacate the womb early, March 18 will be his birthday: With John Groce on the road for half the year, even live birth must be scheduled months in advance. Thus, as with the succesful debuts of Conner and Camden, Groce child #3’s delivery will be induced.


A note to the H8erz Gonna H8 crowd: Yes, I asked Allison if her happy news was fit for publication.  She laughed it off. “I already posted it on Facebook.”

Now, about Jalen Brunson.

If it weren’t for those famously silly NCAA rules about publicizing recruiting activities; the Illini coaching staff would be delighted to share its vision of Jalen Brunson’s future. But they can’t.  The Brunsons themselves were off-limits to the media during Jalen’s Official Visit, per those same silly rules.

Thank god for pictures. They say a thousand words. So here are twenty-thousand words.

Mark Morris, as Director of Basketball Operations, had the responsibility of coordinating movements around town, and picking up all the tabs. (Official Visits are the one and only time a basketball program can pay for benefits to families, including travel expenses, lodging and meals.)

Mike LaTulip and Aaron Jordan ran point on Brunson, from the player’s perspective. Paris Parham took the lead on Rick Brunson.

Old friend Rob Jordan and new friends Laura & Jeff Finke made Sandra Brunson feel like family.

LaTulip is perfect in this role. He can articulate the offensive and defensive principles of John Groce’s system, perhaps better than anyone else in the program, and from a Point Guard’s perspective.  Mike is a team favorite, considered  by his teammates to be the funniest guy among them.

Mike Basgier did not attend the football game, and Ryan Pedon was Best Manning a wedding. But the rest of the coaching staff was on hand, plus the Groce and Parham families.

Parham is streetwise. Despite a devilish sense of humor, he’s capable of communicating the lay of the land to an old-pro like Rick Brunson, whose BS-detector is well-honed from his own college and professional basketball career.

John Groce is ultimately the most important figure in this recruitment. But Rob Jordan is the wild card.

Aaron’s dad is sincere and lighthearted. But he’s nobody’s fool. His relationship with the Brunsons goes back years. His understanding of the process, and his faith in the direction of the program, may be the most important intangibles in determining the final verdict.


*This is just my hunch at a name.  “Caleb” seems possible as well. Or “Catherine.”