Ohio University's John Groce has emerged as a legitimate candidate to replace Bruce Weber at Illinois.
Sources told CBSSports.com that Groce, who led the Bobcats to the Sweet 16 this season, has been contacted by the Illini -- via a third-party -- and has expressed interest in the position.
VCU coach Shaka Smart was Mike Thomas' first choice, but Smart spurned the Illini last week. Thomas then, through search firm Parker Executive Search firm, reached out to Butler's Brad Stevens to gauge his interest. Stevens also declined.
Now Groce, who has led Ohio to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances in his four-year tenure at Ohio, has emerged. Groce was best-known for being the lead recruiter and landing Greg Oden and Mike Conley when he was an assistant for Thad Matta at Ohio State.
Groce, 40, also worked with Matta and Butler and Xavier. He has a 85-56 mark at Ohio, including 70-39 in the past three years.