By Joe Henricksen
The march towards the November signing period is now just a little over three months away. With the state's premier college basketball program - coach Bruce Weber's Illinois Fighting Illini - stockpiled with commitments from the state's top two senior prospects, Warren's Brandon Paul and Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson, as well as top 10 player Joseph Bertrand of Sterling, there is plenty left for the other basketball programs in Illinois. Now it's a matter of fighting off one another and out-of-state programs to land these coveted prospects.
As verbal commitments start trickling in following the July evaluation period, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at a few of the other Division I programs in the state of Illinois and who the Hoops Report believes would be ideal matches for the various programs and their needs.
Chris Colvin, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Ahhhh, thought Illinois was done? Well, technically, with the Jamar Smith situation the Illini would have a 13th scholarship available for the 2009-2010 season and then some shuffling would have to be done the following year. Forget the fact Richardson, Paul and Bertrand (and Crandall Head a year later) are all guards. None of them are true point guards, which Colvin most definitely is. And he's the best point guard in Illinois in the Class of 2009 - and probably better than any point guard in the 2010 class as well. This is why Colvin remains a target of the Illini and why it would be an ideal match.
There is no question Illinois loves the talent and lead guard ability Colvin brings to the table. And Colvin, with his ability to break people down in the halfcourt and his aggressiveness in transition, could thrive playing with the likes of Richardson, Paul, Head and Jereme Richmond on the wings. One only needs to look at how Illinois plays and how past guards have flourished under Bruce Weber to know Colvin could and would fit in Champaign.
Darius Smith, Chicago (Marshall)
Coach Jerry Wainwright will welcome hometown kid Jeremiah Kelly, a 6-1 guard, to the program this year. And Bolingbrook's Will Walker will be a junior guard this season. But the DePaul program is not exactly loaded with Chicago Public League products--or even Illinois players, for that matter. That's just one important plus in landing Smith, a dynamic presence whenever he steps on the floor. DePaul needs to get more involved with the top talent in Illinois.
He may not always look pretty (he can struggle with his shot, he may or may not be a true point guard, etc.), but Smith has had an outstanding spring and summer. He was outstanding in Kansas City. It's about production, getting things done and winning games, aspects of the game Smith thrives in. He is always putting pressure on the opponents, whether its with his quick feet and hands, defensive instincts or putting pressure on opponents in transition. Smith is a throwback of sorts. Put him on the floor and good things happen.
Matt Vogrich, Lake Forest
Despite some dreadful results in the Big Ten, coach Bill Carmody has definitely made progress in recruiting over the last two years. In 2007 the Wildcats landed Public League star Michael "Juice" Thompson out of Lincoln Park. Thompson had a solid first year at NU averaging 11.6 points and 4.3 assists a game. Last November Carmody secured the signing of one of the real breakout players in Illinois--Glenbard West's 6-9 John Shurna, a consensus top 10 player in the state. Northwestern then added big man Kyle Rowley last spring out of Lake Forest Academy. But the this year's big prize, the Hoops Report believes, would trump even those high-profile recruits.
Landing Vogrich, the sweet shooting guard and Hoops Report's breakout performer of the summer, would mean so much. It would mean Northwestern landed a top five player in the Hoops Report Class of 2009 rankings (Vogrich is currently No. 5). It would mean keeping a kid in its own back yard with a Northwestern profile (i.e. elite student with academics at the top of his wish list for colleges.) And it would mean Northwestern held off the likes of Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Stanford, Michigan and some other high-major schools that have come to the north shore looking for a dynamic shooter and scorer.
It's certainly not going to be easy as I wish NU would have extended an offer to Vogrich before he blew up, but a Thompson, Shurna, Rowley and Vogrich nucleus in a couple of years in Evanston? Now we're on to something. But will Vogrich be willing to make that leap of faith for a school that definitely meets the academic side of it but is not quite at the level basketball wise as some of the other schools that are in on him?
Jordan Prosser, Eureka
Of all the schools on this list, Bradley and coach Jim Les is the only one that has already landed one of the Hoops Report's "top targets." Prosser committed to Bradley just days ago.
Although Bradley was in on Marshall's Darius Smith early, coveted the talented guard from the get-go and remains a priority, he may have played himself out of the mid-major level. But with Bradley having brought in four guards in the last recruiting class and seeing a lack of size in the near future, getting a legitimate big man like Prosser locked up is huge. A year ago there wouldn't have been many who thought Bradley could land the big kid from Eureka. Prosser's stock in the last year has certainly dropped, which is partially why the Braves were able to land him. Nonetheless, he is a quality four-man who ended up at the right level for him. And finding any quality big man at any level is a daunting challenge for college coaches. Prosser fits the bill perfectly for a program that needed an inside player in this recruiting class.
D.J. Cooper, South Holland (Seton Academy)
Like DePaul, the Loyola program is going to have to get more involved and close the deal on more prospects from the city and suburbs. Currently the Ramblers have West Aurora product Justin Cerasoli, who transferred to Loyola after brief stays at Seton Hall and Ole Miss, and Conant's Geoff McCammon, a non-descript recruit signed in the late signing period two years ago. That's not nearly enough Illinois talent for a college program in the heart of fertile recruiting grounds.
Thus, Cooper becomes coach Jim Whitesell's biggest and most important Illinois target. Loyola needs guards. In landing Cooper, the very respected Whitesell will have a floor leader for the next four years that could team with another talented guard, Courtney Stanley out of Philadelphia, who will be a freshman this season. But more importantly, Cooper would be a huge advocate, personality and recruiter for Whitesell's program. There are some players that have that dynamic among peers and Cooper is one of them. Loyola will have to go head-to-head with some bigger schools, more high-profile basketball programs, but Whitesell and the Ramblers can get this done. Cooper is said to have Loyola very high on his list.
Terry Johnson, Chicago (St. Rita)/Tony Nixon, South Holland (Seton Academy)
Yes, there are two names here linked with Illinois State as the Hoops Report couldn't separate the two in this recruiting situation. Both Johnson and Nixon are recruiting priorities, would have great opportunities there and would flourish in ISU's system.
There are a handful of players in Illinois --outside the "big names"-- the Hoops Report has gushed about for quite some time. Johnson has definitely been one of them, since spotting him as a sophomore at Seton Academy and then watching him and his vast offensive repertoire last season after transferring to St. Rita. Johnson remains one of the underrated players in the state.
Nixon, arguably, had as productive of a summer as any player in Illinois. He showcased his greatest strength - shooting the basketball - time and time again. If Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich is the state's best shooter, Nixon is right behind him. He also has a terrific body and, though he still needs work in this area, is starting to become more comfortable putting the ball on the floor. Of all the schools on Nixon's growing list, Illinois State seems to make the most sense as of right now - system fits, program will need an influx of perimeter scorers, close to home and a rising program in a terrific league (Missouri Valley).
Illinois State has got it going. The Redbirds are fresh off a 25-win season, NIT bid and the return of arguably the best player in the Missouri Valley Conference, Osiris Eldridge. Coach Tim Jankovich's program will be in need of scorers, with Eldridge being a junior this coming season and 6-4 Chamberlain Iguchi a senior. Johnson and Nixon would fill those roles. Johnson, who just has the knack for putting the ball in the hole in a variety of ways, is a scoring combo guard in a system that would fit him perfectly with his dribble drive, kick and shooting abilities. And Nixon can just flat-out fill it up.
Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich will be visiting Michigan later this month. Vogrich says he believes the Wolverines will be "officially" offering him when he's on campus, as the Michigan staff has indicated to him.... The interest for DeKalb big man Jordan Threloff continues to pick up. The 6-10 junior is receiving a wide range of interest, including an offer on Monday from Southern Illinois....While DePaul, Oklahoma State, Northwestern and Cincinnati are the four schools from high-major conferences that have offered Rockton-Hononegah's David Brown, the talented 6-3 guard is enamored with a pair of schools that have yet to offer. "I really am interested in Iowa State and Wake Forest," says Brown. "They have shown some interest but have not offered." ... While there has been a huge increase in young players committing earlier and earlier, don't look for Rock Island's Chasson Randle to be one of them. Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Iowa State have been in on the talented sophomore-to-be - with many other high-majors scurrying to get involved - but as of now he's looking to take his time in the process and is in no rush, according to those close to him.... Bloom's Brian Conway, an athletic 6-3 perimeter player, has offers from Northern Iowa and UW-Green Bay. Conway will be visiting both those schools, while AAU Wolves coach Mike Mullins says TCU and Cincinnati have also picked up their interest since seeing Conway play in Arizona during the July evaluation period.... David Bryant, the 6-4 guard from Batavia who had a solid summer for a banged up Illinois Wolves team, will be making an East Coast swing with visits to Albany, Fairfield, Wagner and William and Mary, all of which have offered.... The Hoops Report still believes people are missing the boat on Conrad Krutwig of Jacobs. Yes, he's an undersized combo forward, but no one plays harder, he's skilled and is a better athlete than people realize. Krutwig has several Division II offers while waiting for a Division I school to pull the trigger. He will be on campus to visit Lehigh, Lafayette and Ohio. Both Murray State and Evansville have been involved but have taken a wait-and-see approach.