Illinois lands Simeon guard Tate

John Groce is keeping the pipeline from Simeon to Illinois alive and well. AP Photo/David Mercer

Chicago Simeon Career Academy senior guard Jaylon Tate committed to Illinois on Thursday.

The 6-2 Tate was offered a scholarship by Illini coach John Groce while making an official visit on Thursday. Tate is ranked the 54th-best point guard in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.

"I got a good vibe from the coaching staff," Tate said. "It feels like home. I feel comfortable there on and off the court."

Tate had previously received offers only from mid-major programs and had been on an official visit to Ohio last weekend, but his stock has risen since coaches began watching him in Simeon's open gyms last month. Georgetown had also recently expressed interest in him.

"It's great," Simeon coach Robert Smith said. "They're getting another quality guy who knows how to win, is going to work hard and gives them that relationship with the (Chicago) Public League again.

"He's a true point guard, someone who is willing to pass and then score second. Just the time I had him in, his work ethic is off the charts. He loves to be in the gym and get better. He's a team leader."

Tate's commitment is the second one Illinois has received from a Simeon player in the past month. Tate's backcourt teammate Kendrick Nunn, who is ranked No. 56 in the Class of 2013, committed to Illinois on Sept. 15. Nunn and Tate also played club basketball together for the MeanStreets program.

"They know each other," Smith said. "Kendrick is going to be a part of what they're doing there. You have to have someone who can read off to make happen."

Tate transferred to Simeon before his junior year after spending his first two years on De La Salle's varsity team. At De La Salle, he received early interest from a number of high-major programs, including locally by DePaul and Northwestern.

Last season, Tate fell of the map a bit. He spent a part of his first season at Simeon adjusting to playing with a new team, and his play improved as the season unfolded. He scored a team-high 11 points in the Wolverines' state semifinal win over Bloom and had eight points, two assists and two steals in their state championship win over Proviso East.

"Before Jaylon got to us, he was one of the top guys in the 150 in the country," Smith said. "I think last year coming off the bench and not playing many minutes kind of knocked him out of the radar. We never questioned his ability. He didn't have the spring and summer he wanted. He worked hard in the fall. I knew someone would take a chance on him if they saw in the fall. It just paid off for him."

Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham, a Chicago native, was the lead recruiter on Tate. Parham also assisted Groce in Nunn's recruitment.

"They see me being a leader and floor general," Tate said. "They see me and (Tracy Abrams) playing together. As far as coach Groce’s style, he likes to have multiple ballhandlers on the court. They said they’re done looking at point guards in 2013 and 2014. That means a lot to me since it’s my state school. I want to get it back to being a winning program and make big things happen."

Simeon has become somewhat of a feeder program to the Illini over the years. Calvin Brock, Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Kevin Turner, Bryant Notree and Stan Simpson are among the past Simeon alumni to play at Illinois.

Smith thought it was unlikely Tate's and Nunn's commitments would lead to their Simeon teammate Jabari Parker, the nation's top-ranked senior, to consider Illinois at the last minute, but Smith said nothing was impossible.

"You never know," Smith said. "If it doesn't work with him, it could pique other guys' interest in 2014. Some other guys could look at that Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn stayed at home. If it's good enough for them, it could be good enough for us. (Jabari's) looked and thought about it. The way it's going so far, he's already out doing other things. That could make it really hard at this point."

With even more Simeon talent on the way, including highly touted freshman Ben Coupet and sophomore D.J. Williams, Illinois could put itself in a good position to land future players from the program.

"I think that this is very significant," ESPN recruiting coordinator Reggie Rankin said. "It's one of the elite programs in the city. For that matter, Simeon is known all over the country. People associated Simeon with talented basketball players and a good program in Chicago. You've established a great foundation there. They got kids coming behind them. I think that's absolutely a feather in their cap that they can do that."

Illinois coach John Groce had made a point guard a recruiting priority for his 2013 class. Sophomore Tracy Abrams is the lone true point guard on Illinois' current roster.

Illinois will now await Huntington Prep (W.V.) senior shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes' decision. Rathan-Mayes, who is ranked No. 24, will choose between Connecticut, Florida State and Illinois on Oct. 13.

Tate is Illinois' fourth Class of 2013 recruit. He joins Nunn, Belleville East (Ill.) swingman Malcolm Hill, who is ranked No. 89, and Springboro (Ohio) center Maverick Morgan.