For Illini fans, Deon Thomas could soon become much more than just nostalgia and the answer to a trivia question.
Thomas, a product of Chicago Simeon is the Illinois basketball all-time leading scorer and second all-time rebounder, starring in Champaign from 1990-94. He was selected by the Dallas Mavericks 28th overall in the 1994 NBA Draft. After attending Mavs mini camp, Thomas opted to play professional basketball in Europe and Israel instead of the NBA.
Thomas is one of the most successful American pros of all time in the European leagues and passed on several opportunities to play in the NBA.Since 2009, he’s been the head coach at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois.
And there are rumors he could land on new coach John Groce’s staff. Thomas believes he has a good chance.
It would be a popular move with the Illini faithful and send a positive message to the Chicago Public League, two things the program badly needs. Groce has already brought in Dustin Ford and Jamall Walker, the first two assistants to follow him from Ohio to Illinois. Groce said Wednesday he is in the process of naming the third and final assistant as well as the support staff.
For the sake of Illini basketball, it really should be someone with a connection to the CPL; especially now that the idea of hiring Simeon coach Robert Smith is off-the-table. For those of you who wanted Smith, sorry it’s not going to happen. But hiring Thomas and giving him a gig that allows him to recruit off-campus, specifically Chicago all the time, would be advantageous.
Remember the good ol’ days when EVERYONE who starred at Simeon high committed to Illinois? Nick Anderson, Ben Wilson, Thomas, Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner…then Lon Kruger shut down the CPL pipeline and Derrick Rose picked Memphis and John Calipari instead of Illinois and Bruce Weber.
Thomas could re-open it.
Starting with Jabari Parker, the nation’s #1 junior, currently at Simeon. Getting Parker, just for his one season of college basketball would do wonders for recruiting. It would fire a shot heard round the CPL recruiting world. It would fire a shot round the worlds of Scout.com and Rivals.com. Parker’s current coach has said that Jabari is indeed interested in Illinois. Landing him might also help land the #57 recruit in the nation, Parker’s teammate Kendrick Nunn.
Nunn made an unofficial visit to Illinois this week after de-committing from Texas A&M. And Nunn appears interested.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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