Area coaches: Parham good hire for Illini

Some of the Chicago area’s most prominent high school and clubs coaches reacted positively Tuesday to Illinois hiring assistant coach Paris Parham.

Parham replaces Isaac Chew on Illinois coach John Groce’s staff after Chew departed last month for a position at Marquette. Parham is expected to be the Illini’s lead Chicago recruiter. He is a Chicago native, played at Dunbar High School in Chicago, coached at Phillips High School and Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Public League and has recruited the city and surrounding suburbs the last five years for Illinois State.

“It’s rare a person gets an opportunity to do a do-over,” said Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, whose roster includes nationally-ranked juniors Jahlil Okafor and Paul White. “I think coach Groce and the Illinois program got a do-over. We all liked the Chew hire, but I think the Paris Parham hire is one we love. It’s means nothing negative against Chew. It’s about the relationship we all have with Paris.

“I’m elated. This is one of the few times in Illinois basketball hire history that I can say I’m excited.”

Simeon coach Robert Smith, who coaches nationally-ranked seniors Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn, had a similar reaction.

“I think they finally may have won over Chicago with that hire,” Smith said. “I think they did. I think he can really help with what they’re trying to do. He knows the city of Chicago. He has the same views I have. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and not just basketball.

“I hope everyone can get on board with this and help Illinois become one of the top 5 programs in the country. If we can help get some kids in there and get players down there in person, I think we have a chance of having something really special down there. With my conversations with coach Groce, I think he has the charisma, I know he knows what he’s doing and I think he can push the guys to the next level. I think with him, [assistant coach] Jamall [Walker] and Paris, I think they have a chance to win a national championship.”

Smith and Slaughter didn’t believe Chicago’s top players would automatically begin choosing Illinois, but they thought their chances had been improved.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure he didn’t guarantee anything. I know Paris well enough and he wouldn’t say, ‘I can get you Kendrick and Jabari,’ but he would say he has ties with people and could get them into the community. [Parker’s father] Sonny helped him to become a player. He worked out with Sonny when he was young as well. He’s known [Parker’s mother] for years.

“He knows Jabari and knows Kendrick and knows Kendrick’s parents. If our child is going [to Illinois], we have someone we can trust at the end of the day. I know that those parents are looking at that and that’s important to them.”

Slaughter thought Parham’s relationships with the city’s coaches would improve Illinois’ relationships with those same people.

“I think rapidly it starts to do two things,” Slaughter said. “It connects the new staff immediately to the city of Chicago and portion of the state that’s important to them. Having Paris legitimizes their commitment to the state and city, and it also allows us to have a great level of comfort to someone who can really talk about the realities of what the program is trying to do and will accept that because we have a personal relationship.”

Club coaches Mike Weinstein and Tai Streets also spoke highly of Parham.

“This is a guy who is a hard worker and knows the land of Illinois,” Weinstein said. “I think he’s a class-act guy. He’s level-headed, a hard worker and he does it the right way.”

Streets said, “I think it’s going to be tremendous for Illinois with his knowledge and ties to Chicago. Speaking for [my program] MeanStreets, I think it was a good hire. He’s a great dude, clean dude and knows his stuff. I think it’s a great fit.”