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Men’s Basketball: Ohio Players React To Rumors Of Groce-To-Illinois

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Since the Bobcats' NCAA Tournament run finished this past Friday, frequent reports have stated that current Ohio head coach John Groce has expressed interest in taking over the head coaching duties at the University of Illinois. Illinois has expressed mutual interest, and many reports have said a deal between the two sides is still being negotiated.

Groce, whose contract expires in 2015, would have to pay a $200,000 buyout to Ohio University if he were to resign and take over at Illinois.

But lately, followers of the situation can't look at Twitter without seeing something about what has been deemed "GroceWatch."

Wesley Lowery, Editor-in-chief of The Post (Ohio's independent student newspaper)

Chicago Tribune Headline from March 27

Aaron Bennett, Sports Director at WCIA/WCIX-TV, tweet from March 27

NBC Sports headline from March 27

Bobcat players, who will ultimately be the most affected by Groce's decision, have been caught in the crossfire of "sources" saying one thing, only to have "reports" that contradict that information. The frustration of the unknown was apparent with freshman guard Stevie Taylor.

"I just don't know what to think, who to believe, I don't know where we stand," Taylor said on Wednesday.

Taylor just completed his first season of collegiate basketball. He said he's never been involved in anything like this and said he feels "lost" and "confused."

"It's pretty hard when people are saying your coach is going to leave you and they haven't talked to you," Taylor said. "It's just up in the air, but I think we're dealing with it pretty good, we just got to keep going to class and doing what we do, that's what we've been doing all year."

Taylor was with junior forward Ivo Baltic on their way to play some pick-up basketball at the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center. Baltic agreed the up-in-the-air feeling is tough and he couldn't avoid the reports if he wanted to.

"It's hard not to notice it, it's on ESPN and stuff," Baltic said with a "you-can't-escape-it" kind of laugh.

Baltic said the coaches haven't told the team much, other than "enjoy your break for now we'll talk to you soon."

That's a task that seems much easier said than done in a situation like this. Baltic did add that he wouldn't transfer if Groce left for Illinois, saying, "I'm dedicated to OU, man. I'm staying here."

Taylor and Baltic were the only players WOUB spoke to in person, but they are certainly not the only players who have voiced their opinion.

Junior guard Walter Offutt, who has played under Groce twice (Ohio State 2008-10, Ohio 2010-present), showed his frustration Wednesday when he tweeted, "All of this is stressing me out I wish somebody would tell me what's really going on don't I deserve it d***"

While Offutt used his Twitter to vent some frustration, other players had a little fun with a situation that has few truthful reports.

"I say we all hit the casino tonight & raise some money for my man JG," was Dj Cooper's response after an Associated Press story reported that Ohio University was looking into fundraising efforts to help keep John Groce.

Tuesday, when much was being said and even less was credible, Reggie Keely tweeted "It's been fun OU," which prompted comments and retweets from fans, followers and media outlets far and wide.

Shortly after, Keely responded with, "I'M not going anywhere," but teammate T.J. Hall joined in the fun, tweeting, "Yes we are."

Keely has since deleted many of his tweets from Tuesday.

One thing seems to be consistent with the players, they will support Groce, whichever school he chooses.

"You can't blame him, he took this job trying to build this program up, that's what he's done here, so once he's conquered that if he decides to move on, then he decides to move on, and I'll always respect coach Groce for that," Taylor said.

Baltic agreed with Taylor, "He's going to do what's best for him and we understand that, we all love him and respect any decision he makes."

Cooper posted on Twitter, "Can't get mad at someone for living their dream! Everybody tryna get to the top."