Boys Basketball: Simeon’s Jaylon Tate chooses Illinois

Story Image Jaylon Tate soars in to the hoop for Simeon. Patrick Gleason ~ For the Sun-Times

Updated: October 4, 2012 8:47PM

Simeon senior point guard Jaylon Tate committed to Illinois and coach John Groce Thursday, following in the footsteps of his Wolverines teammate Kendrick Nunn.

Tate committed to Illinois after visiting the campus earlier in the day.

The Illini’s pursuit of Tate was fast and furious. Tate, who was gaining attention from higher-level programs during fall open gyms, felt there was no need to wait.

“I love the school, the program and the coaching staff,” Tate said. “It felt right immediately. This is a place I really want to be. Both coach Groce and coach [Paris] Parham made me feel really comfortable. They told me I’m their guy, they believe in me and that they just want me to go play my game.”

Illinois had targeted top-20 national talent Demetrius Jackson out of Indiana, but he selected Notre Dame last week. Tate, 6-2, entered the picture for Illinois as the ball-handling guard Groce needs for his offense.

“I’ve watched Ohio and coach Groce’s teams, and the style of play was definitely something I like and want to play in,” Tate said. “I have seen what coach Groce has done with his guards. Now I get to go play in that style and do so with Kendrick”

Tate actually had Ohio high on his list, taking an official visit to the MAC program last weekend. He had an official visit set up with Western Kentucky later this month. Tate, however, is thrilled with the decision.

“I’m really excited,” Tate said. “It shows me all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off. I kept working and working.”

Last year was an adjustment period for Tate, learning a new system and a new way of going about things at Simeon after transferring from De La Salle. Now he’s carrying a quiet confidence while still possessing the point guard essentials — handling the ball efficiently, solid court vision and playing like a true point guard.

“I’m a lot more comfortable and confident now after spending a year at Simeon,” Tate said. “It takes time to get used to a new system, get used to playing with new players and different coaches. Coach Rob [Smith] is a lot different than what I was used to at De La Salle. Now I’m more familiar with it all. And I’m the lead guard now.”

Smith sees the difference and is ready to put the ball in his hands as his starting point guard.

“He knows and understands the system now,” Smith said. “To his credit, he came in last year and took a back seat to some others. Now it’s his team. He’s running the show at the point guard position.”

The Simeon-to-Illinois pipeline has been fruitful over the years, starting in the 1980s with Nick Anderson and Ervin Small, who were both part of the Flying Illini Final Four team. Add in the all-time leading scorer in Illini history, Deon Thomas, along with Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner, Calvin Brock, Stan Simpson — and now Nunn and Tate — and Illinois will have signed nine Simeon players.

Plus, Illinois has placed Simeon sophomore D.J. Williams, a versatile 6-7 wing, as a recruiting priority in the Class of 2015.

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