Whelp, the names for new assistant coaches at Illinois keep piling up, and none of them are Jerrance Howard. There is still room for at least one more, but Howard isn’t likely to be on the list. As long as we don’t lose him to Kansas, I might be talked down from the ledge.
On that note, let’s meet the new guys who will be replacing Jay Price and Wayne McClain, and will be tasked with assisting John Groce in taking the Illini on the next step toward greatness (if I write it, then it shall be true).
Dustin Ford and Jamall Walker are the new hires, both of which hung out with Groce at Ohio University.
“I’m pleased to add Dustin and Jamall to our staff,” Groce said. “These two coaches were with me at Ohio and will bring stability, continuity and knowledge of how we want to run the program here at the University of Illinois. Dustin has tremendous experience coaching forwards and posts, and Jamal excels at developing guards. They are well rounded in every aspect of coaching at this level including recruiting, scouting and player development.”
Ford was with Groce at Ohio from 2009-12, where he specialized in working with the frontcourt. Too bad Meyers Leonard won’t be around to be developed. Before that, Ford served three years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator on Larry Hunter’s staff at Western Carolina from 2006-08 and was promoted to associate head coach in the spring of 2008. During his tenure at Western Carolina, he was responsible for recruiting two eventual Southern Conference Defensive Players of the Year in Brigham Waginger (2010) and Richie Gordon (2011) and a SoCon Freshman of the Year in Harouna Mutombo (2009).
Ford played the game himself at Ohio from 1998-01, and led the Bobcats in 3-point field goals as a junior and senior. Ford’s 166 career 3-pointers and 310 career assists currently rank seventh and eighth, respectively, in Ohio school history. Ford’s brother Geno is the head coach at Bradley. He and his wife, Marcie, have a son, Max, and daughter, Abbie.
Jamall Walker was part of Groce’s original Ohio staff during the 2009 season. After serving as Director of Basketball Operations for Sean Miller at Arizona in 2010, Walker returned to Athens to assist Groce from 2011-12. His specialty is working with guards, and Walker mentored D.J. Cooper, a two-time first-team All-MAC selection and 2012 MAC Tournament MVP (also rumored to be transferring to Illinois if it can pan out).
Before arriving at Ohio, Walker spent one year as an assistant coach at Murray State in 2008, preceded by a one-year stint as anassistant at St. Louis in 2007.
Walker entered the Division I coaching ranks at Ball State, where he was an assistant and recruiting coordinator for two years from 2005-06. During his time in Muncie, Walker played a key role in recruiting Chicagoland guard Maurice Acker, the 2006 MAC Freshman of the Year.
Walker played point guard at Saint Louis for four years from 1996-99, helping lead the Billikens to the NCAA Tournament in 1998. He earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team recognition in 1996 and ranks seventh in St. Louis school history with 350 career assists. Walker and his wife, Rebekah, have a daughter, JaShawn.
I like that Groce is loyal to the guys he knows and loves, but I hope they have what it takes to recruit in what “sources” keep calling one of the most difficult badlands around: Chicago. It was pretty clear that Mike Thomas took a page from my book of “Keep Jerrance Around at All Costs,” but that book is closing quickly.
We shall see Illini fans, we shall see. Oh, and welcome to Champaign, new guys!