Why 5-star Arizona target Will Riley committing to Illinois is best for everyone

Though Arizona was in Riley's Top 5, going to Illinois leaves minutes for KJ Lewis and Anthony Dell'Orso to blossom with the Wildcats.
Clemson v Arizona
Clemson v Arizona / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Will Riley will not be an Arizona Wildcat, and it's for the best.

The 5-star Canadian small forward prospect committed to Illinois and Brad Underwood on Sunday, choosing the Fightin' Illini over Arizona, Alabama, Kentucky, and the NBL's New Zealand Breakers. 247 Sports has him listed as one of Illinois' highest-graded commits in over 20 years.

Despite Arizona's signing class being halved over the last month, this doesn't feel like a miss on the recruiting trail. In fact, Arizona is probably the team that needed him the least — especially considering his reclassification plans.

What's the state of affairs with Illinois Basketball?

Kylan Boswell, Kobe Elvis
Dayton v Arizona / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

The Illini are returning just three members from last season's roster in the 2024-25 season, and they still need to bolster the roster more despite adding former Arizona point guard Kylan Boswell and former Notre Dame power forward Carey Booth via the transfer portal.

Riley will get the opportunity to compete for the starting small forward spot immediately in Urbana-Champaign, but the spot isn't guaranteed. Ben Humichrous averaged 14.7 points per game with Evansville and Tre White averaged 12.3 points per game with Louisville, and they're both transferring to Illinois to play the same wing position as Riley.

Even if Riley doesn't crack the starting lineup with the Illini, he'll still see far more time on the court in Urbana-Champaign than he would in Tucson. The top-flight prospect is too talented to keep on the bench and hinder the development of, and Illinois' situation is perfect for him to reclassify and play right away.

Does this even affect Arizona?

Frankly, no.

KJ Lewis
Arizona v Arizona State / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Arizona's wing position is already two-deep even with Pelle Larsson's departure for the NBA draft. Rising sophomore KJ Lewis had a standout season contributing on both ends of the court despite being stuck on the bench behind Larsson and Caleb Love. Now, Lewis will reclaim his natural small forward position while taking up the starting mantle.

Even behind Lewis is incoming transfer Anthony Dell'Orso, who is coming off a phenomenal two seasons with mid-major Campbell. He averaged an eye-popping 19.5 points per game for the Fightin' Camels, which means he'll constantly be jockeying for more playing time as an über-productive player transitioning into a bench rotation role.

Since Riley's intentions were (clearly) to reclassify, there wouldn't have been any room for him in Tucson at his comfortable position. This would have both hindered his development and taken valuable reps away from the assets already in the building, so it's in each party's best interest that Riley will take his talents to Illinois.

ICYMI. ES. How 4-star center commit Emmanuel Stephen fits into the equation. dark

Don’t forget to follow us at @ZonaZealots on Twitter and like our fan page on Facebook for continued coverage of Arizona news, opinions, and recruiting updates!