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Ohio men's basketball coach John Groce and junior Walter Offutt embrace after the Bobcats won the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship. Offutt transferred from Ohio State, where Groce originally recruited him, to play for the coach, but Groce will be introduced as the new coach at the University of Illinois Thursday. (Brien Vincent | Staff Photographer)

Players react to Groce's departure

After keeping his players wondering about the future of their coach for the entire week, John Groce met the team this morning to tell them of his plans to accept the head coaching position at Illinois.

Even though the players knew what was coming, that did not make the news any easier to swallow.

"Just speechless, really," sophomore Ricardo Johnson said. 

Perhaps the player most affected by Groce's decision to leave Ohio is junior Walter Offutt, who transfered to Ohio to be with Groce after Groce originally recruited him to Ohio State.

"I feel terrible," Offutt said. "I’m upset a little bit, but I understand. It’s a tough deal because I came here to play for him. Ohio University is great, but I came here for coach Groce."

Both Offutt and Johnson said Groce offered the team encouragement during the meeting.

"He told us to stick together as much as possible," Offutt said. "I can’t really remember a lot right now because I have a lot going through my mind. That’s one thing he told us: Try to stick together."

Illinois announced a 2 p.m. EDT news conference to introduce Groce, while Ohio Director of Athletics Jim Schaus will meet with the media at 3:45 p.m.

"He impacted me a lot," Offutt said. "It just sucked to see him go." 

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