Jackson chooses Notre Dame basketball over Illinois

John Supinie

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois missed on its first choice among point guards in the senior class when recruit Demetrius Jackson committed to Notre Dame on Thursday.

With point guard the biggest concern as new coach John Groce puts together a roster, the Illini targeted Jackson, a senior at Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian who is ranked as the No. 6 point guard and the No. 27 prospect overall in the class of 2013 by Rivals.com.

A commitment from Jackson would have accelerated the Illini’s rebuilding process. But Jackson picked the school just 15 minutes down the road from his home.

“I will be attending Notre Dame because I think I will develop as a person and a player,’’ Jackson said on ESPNU.

From here, the Illini will likely focus on Dayshon Smith, of Putnam, Conn., and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a combo guard who visited Illinois earlier this month.

Smith was expected to visit Illinois in October, according to one report, and Rathan-Mayes likes the comparisons to former Illini guard Deron Williams. So the chance to play point guard at Illinois may also interest Rathan-Mayes, a Canadian who plays for Huntington (W.Va.) Prep.

But the Illini face a tough challenge in pulling him from Florida State, where his father played.

Rivals puts Rathan-Mayes at No. 25 in the senior class and Smith at No. 121.

Illinois was sent out of state for a point guard because there is no high major candidate left inside the state among high school seniors, said Chicago-based recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen.

Billy Garrett already has committed to DePaul, and the only other point guard among the top 20 prospects is Simeon’s Jalen Tate, who is considered more of a mid-major talent.

“Unfortunately, it’s a bad time for point guards in the state of Illinois,’’ Henricksen said.

Risky option

Illinois could also wait for the high school season to develop.

“It’s more of a roll of the dice or a gamble when you’re trying to see if an out-of-state point guard blows up over the course of the winter and try to get a late steal in April,’’ Henricksen said.

“That’s a gamble when you’re in need of a ballhandling point guard.’’

Senior power forward Austin Colbert will visit Illinois this weekend. The 6-foot-9, 200-pounder from Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, N.J., has a scholarship offer from Illinois and others including Vanderbilt, Miami and Seton Hall.

The day didn’t go perfectly to plan for Jackson. Because of a snafu, the video of Jackson’s decision leaked onto the ESPN website before he could inform Groce.

“It’s disappointing because I wasn’t able to let the Illinois coaches know what was going on.”

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.