By Joe Henricksen
National Signing Day is here for high school players around the country. Sure, everyone's a winner, with student-athletes getting a college scholarship and college coaches pumping new life into their programs. But here in Illinois there some that were bigger winners than others. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the day's biggest winners as high school prospects can officially sign their letter-of-intent.
Why: While the trio of Warren's Brandon Paul, Sterling's Joseph Bertrand and former Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson have been committed to the Illini program for more than a year, it's now official. Add talented 6-8 Tyler Griffey out of Missouri to the mix and Weber can now begin to truly quiet the critics in regard to his recruiting efforts. Couple this class with what's coming the following year -- Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, Crane's Crandall Head and Robinson's Meyers Leonard in 2010 -- and the Illinois program being "big winners" on signing day is a welcome change. While the drama impact now comes on the day kids commit, this is a huge day, nonetheless, for Weber and his program. The influx of talent is badly needed.
Why: Simply put, coach Tim Jankovich's program is on a rapid rise. And the Hoops Report likes ISU's recruiting haul a lot better than many others do, ranking two of its prospects -- North Lawndale's Terry Johnson and University Lab's Zeke Upshaw -- higher than most. Johnson is among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2009 and Upshaw, a real sleeper and late bloomer, among the top 20. Many people have raved about high-scoring guard Justin Clark out of Missouri, who joins his high school teammate, 6-7 Jon Ekey, in a terrific Redbird class. This program is poised to be a major player in the Missouri Valley now and in years to come.
Why: If Shaun Pratl of Richards holds off and waits until spring, it's hard to imagine Eastern Illinois pulling off a recruiting coup like Pratl, a 6-8 athlete who is the biggest recruiting steal of the November signing period. With a 100 percent commitment to basketball, Pratl, who has split time between basketball and football throughout his high school career, can become an All-Ohio Valley Conference player. He's agile, runs the floor, athletic and can face up and knock down shots.
Why: It would have been easy for the 6-3 guard from Lake Forest to get swept up in the hoopla when he became a hot commodity following a terrific summer on the AAU circuit. And it would have been easy for Vogrich to get starry-eyed in the name and tradition of a program like UCLA. In the end there might not be a player that picked a better fit for himself than the sweet shooting Vogrich, who fits perfectly in the style and system Michigan coach John Beilein's team plays.
SETH EVANS and WISCONSIN-GREEN BAY
Why: Could Seth Evans of Seneca have played at a slightly higher level than UW-Green Bay? Probably. But it's the right fit. He won't be recruited over, should get early playing time and will be one of the better guards in the Horizon League before he's through. Meanwhile, coach Tod Kowalczyk and the Phoenix get a coach's kid who is the consummate team guy and point guard with all the intangibles.
Why: Coach Ricardo Patton needed to hit a home run -- or at least an extra-base hit -- from the state of Illinois in the Class of 2009. Sorry, but the likes of Tyler Storm, Bryan Hall and Keith Smith, a few of the 2008 recruits, didn't exactly do it and won't be bringing MAC titles to DeKalb. But the Huskies nabbed Seton Academy's 6-5 Tony Nixon, the Hoops Report's No. 16 player, after the sweet shooting wing had a sensational summer. This was a must-recruit for Patton and the program, getting an impact player from the Chicago area.
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