Negotiations between Illinois and assistant basketball coach Jerrance Howard on Tuesday appeared "encouraging'' in Illinois' desire to keep Howard in the program, and the two sides may complete a deal Wednesday.

Negotiations between Illinois and assistant basketball coach Jerrance Howard on Tuesday appeared "encouraging'' in Illinois' desire to keep Howard in the program, and the two sides may complete a deal Wednesday.

Kentucky showed interest in landing Howard for its vacant assistant coaching position, then Illinois made it a priority to keep the recruiting whiz.

Howard, a Peoria native and former Illini guard, was unavailable for comment, but the school said talks were proceeding. Howard, who completed his third year as an Illinois assistant, was dealing with athletic director Ron Guenther and coach Bruce Weber.

"They're still working through some things,'' athletic department spokesman Kent Brown said Tuesday. "It looks encouraging. Nothing is expected to be finalized today, but it could come as early as Wednesday.''

Howard already saw his salary jump a year ago after he became a recruiting star in his first two seasons with the program. Just last week, Howard played a key role in landing an oral commitment from Chicago Orr junior guard Mycheal Henry.

Illinois would likely bump his salary and perhaps extend a contract that already runs into 2013. Last May, Illinois signed Howard to a deal that pays him $180,000 a year. He also received a $50,000 signing bonus last year and would get a one-time payment of $75,000 after completing the contract.

The contact from Kentucky was considered serious. Memphis and Marquette has also shown interest in Howard during his tenure at Illinois.

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.