Illinois assistant basketball coach Isaac Chew was born in Cook County Hospital and always called Chicago home. "Ask anybody from the city, we have a different love for Chicago than most other people do,'' he said. "Good, bad or indifferent, I know our city can be tricky at times. You love it or hate it. I love the city of Chicago.'' That's why a two-day tour through the city developed into a big deal for Chew, who helped escort Illini coach John Groce through a caravan of stops with the most of the powerful prep programs in the city.

CHAMPAIGN -- Illinois assistant basketball coach Isaac Chew was born in Cook County Hospital and always called Chicago home.

"Ask anybody from the city, we have a different love for Chicago than most other people do,'' he said. "Good, bad or indifferent, I know our city can be tricky at times. You love it or hate it. I love the city of Chicago.''

That's why a two-day tour through the city developed into a big deal for Chew, who helped escort Illini coach John Groce through a caravan of stops with the most of the powerful prep programs in the city. Chew made a few introductions, and Groce also became reacquainted with some contacts as the Illini hit the recruiting trail during the week before a weekend of evaluations at AAU events.

"It's been great,'' Chew said. "I know the lay of the land. I know the people you need to speak with. I know certain areas of a the city. It's an advantage, but we've got to work as hard as any other school, if not harder.''

Obviously, putting Groce in front of the Chicago talent power brokers was a priority. It's more important for the high school and AAU coaches to get to know Groce than Chew or assistants Jamall Walker or Dustin Ford.

"People need to see coach Groce's face,'' Chew said. "At the end of the day, he's going to put somebody into the game. He's the one the coaches entrust with their players.

"We wanted to get him around different high schools, letting him speak to people and let them get to know his personality. It wasn't about seeing kids. It was more about developing and furthering relationships with high schools.''

According to sources, Groce and Chew visited Curie, Orr, Proviso East and Whitney Young on Monday. On Tuesday, they stopped at Simeon, DeLaSalle, Morgan Park and St. Joseph.

Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce is "one of my good friends in the business,'' Chew said.

Chew headed to Iowa on Wednesday for a swing that included a trip to Indian Hills Community College, where freshman Jameel McKay was a first-team All-America who led the Warriors to seventh place in the NJCAA national tournament. Chew was a former assistant at Indian Hills. Groce was also working Illinois and Iowa on Wednesday.

Chew attended Proviso East for three seasons before finishing is prep career at Chicago Wells. While coaching the Pump N Run program in Kansas City, Mo., years ago, Chew began building contacts in travel basketball, such as respected Chicago-area coaches Mike Mullins and the Irvin family, he said.

Chew likely made connections to Groce through Walker, who met Chew while they both worked on staff at Murray State. The Illini will also work areas outside of Chicago.

"People don't make a fuss if you're winning,'' Chew said. "We need to do a great job in terms of building relationships as a staff. It's not a one-man crew. I'm part of a great staff.

"You're not going to win a national championship by just taking the five best players out of Chicago. We have to take players that fit.''

NOTE: Illini commitments Malcolm Hill of Belleville East (No. 52) and Jalen James of La Lumiere School (No. 89) were ranked in the top 100 in 2013 when Rivals.com reshuffled its rankings Wednesday. Jabari Parker of Simeon was the No. 1 player in the nation.

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