Recruits will buy into Groce's plan

CHICAGO -- As John Groce's hiring at Illinois was imminent, and the topic of recruiting Chicago came up, someone with close knowledge of the coach said to me, "Just get him in the living room and it's over."

When it comes to recruiting teenagers, that's the general idea.

Groce is supposedly a great "living room guy", which is to say he's a good salesman. That's how you come up in college basketball, by convincing teenagers you're their friend. Some head coaches can't do that and actually coach on a big-time level.

That's the difference between, say, a Tom Thibodeau and a Tom Izzo. By necessity, college coaches are half-Harold Hill and half-Hank Iba. Groce, a spry 40, looks like he could march half the city's guards from Englewood to Champaign.

Can he? Well, that's why he was hired. If he can't recruit Chicago, not to mention the rest of the state, he'll be looking for a new job in a few years and we'll be talking about some other would-be savior in a blue-and-orange tie.

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