When he was hired, Illinois head coach John Groce set out to establish a relationship with Simeon Career Academy head coach Robert Smith and his players. He reaped the benefits of that relationship on Wednesday when point guard Jaylon Tate and shooting guard Kendrick Nunn both signed their letters of intent to play for the Fighting Illini next season.
With basketball alumni like Bobby Simmons, Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas and, most recently, Derrick Rose, the school is the premier high school basketball program in the state of Illinois. Tate told Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago that he doesn't think he'll be the last player to go from Simeon to Illinois:
"Illinois has had a great pipeline of players getting from Simeon and other great players throughout Chicago," Tate said. "We just want to start that back and get a lot of players. We have a lot of players here like D.J. Williams, Ben Coupet, Ed Morrow. We have a lot of top players in younger classes as well looking at Illinois. We just want to start that back up again."
While the 2012-13 season isn't slated to begin for the Simeon Wolverines until the beginning of December, the 2011-12 team finished 32-1 with their only loss coming to Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nevada. The Wolverines finished as the No. 1 team in Illinois and No. 11 in the nation, according to MaxPreps' rankings.