Illinois Fighting Illini Need Chicago for Success in Men's Basketball

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIMarch 21, 2012

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 17:  Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats looks on in the second half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 17, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Do the names Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis resonate with you? If they don't, then you're as out of touch as the University of Illinois, because they are two of the best players to ever come out of Chicago.

Rose went to Memphis, where he led them as a freshman to the NCAA championship game, and on to NBA glory with the Chicago Bulls, culminating in the MVP award last year.

Davis is on the same path, regarded as the best player in the country on the top ranked team, Kentucky.

Are you starting to notice a pattern?

Recruit the best players out of Chicago, and you'll end up one of the best. Unfortunately, that hasn't registered with the Illini, who have avoided Chicago like the plague.

That's why their program is constantly mediocre. They recruit average players, and generally have average coaches tutoring them.

Bruce Weber was probably a nice guy, but he never should have been the head coach of a school like Illinois. Recruiting certainly wasn't a strong suit of his. He couldn't even get a player who his brother coached in high school in Jon Scheyer, who ended up at Duke.

While Scheyer was a very good college player, he wasn't an elite athlete like a Rose or Davis.

Another one of those type of players is playing at the same school Rose went to—Simeon.

Jabari Parker just topped Rose by winning his third straight state title last weekend. The junior is the No. 1 ranked high school player in the country.

Wouldn't it be a coup if Illinois could land him? Wouldn't that send a message to other Chicago area players to stay in state and play for the local school?

The top players are probably one-and-done, but if you can keep restocking the shelves like John Calipari is doing at Kentucky, what does it matter?

Not every player will be at that level. Some will stay and help give the program stability. But you need to get that type of player to give your school legitimacy, and to entice others to come there.

Illinois lost out on the coach they were targeting in Shaka Smart, but that won't matter if they can  attract a coach who can tap the Chicago market.

For some reason, it's supposed to be a tough nut to crack, but if schools outside the state can recruit players from Chicago, why can't the local school?  

Obviously they're doing something wrong.

With so many players from the city starring for teams still in the NCAA tournament, it's a shame not even one team from Illinois even made the tournament.

Illinois should be a powerhouse with its big budget and the prestige of the Big Ten.

Whoever they hire as the new coach has to make inroads into Chicago's hotbed of talent. Even if he doesn't have access to it, hiring someone like Simeon's coach Robert Smith as an assistant would go a long way to accomplishing that.

Land one stud and turn him into a Pied Piper—bringing others into the fold and turning the Illini into a perennial NCAA tournament team with a chance to win it all.

For an institution with the resources of Illinois, it should be as easy as ABC.