By Joe Henricksen
Now, there ... that wasn't so hard.
UIC basketball coach Howard Moore and his staff have locked up their fifth commitment in less than two months and before Moore and his staff have even conduct their first official practice. And this one is arguably the best of the bunch.
UIC secured a huge verbal commitment Monday night when Marc Brown, a 6-4 versatile guard out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, gave Moore the good news. Brown committed to Florida State very early in the recruiting process, but he ultimately de-committed and opened things back up again. Now UIC will welcome a guard with size, versatility, talent and another player capable of knocking down perimeter shots in Moore's system.
"It came down to the relationship I had built with coach Moore and just feeling really good about how things went on my visit there," said Moore, who averaged over 15 points a game as a junior. "I liked everything there, including the bond with coach Moore and the chance to help rebuild something and make it special."
Under some very difficult circumstances -- UIC coming off a poor season and the late hiring of a head coach in August with only three months before signing day -- Moore and his staff have worked some magic. When Moore took over at UIC, the veteran assistant believed he had a ton to sell recruits when it came to the UIC basketball program. Those selling points have been an opportunity to play early on in their career, for local prospects to play in front of family and friends and out-of-staters to go to school and experience life in the great city of Chicago and play in the up-and-coming Horizon League. Moore's recruiting sales pitch has hit home with several recruits, while Moore has shown an ability to recruit, relate and get things done in the city and out of state.
Moore was able to tap into the Chicago Public League, with three commitments from Simeon's 6-6 Ahman Fells, Morgan Park shooter Jerome Brown and Curie point guard Greg Travis, and used his recruiting ties from his Wisconsin days to land two impressive out-of-state recruits. Both Marc Brown and 6-10 Will Simonton of Fishburne Military Institute in Virginia are potential difference-makers in the Horizon League, according to multiple people the Hoops Report has talked with.
Said one coach at a school that plays in a high-major conference, "If we were not so heavy on the perimeter and needed a guard, we would have been all over Marc Brown."
There is no question the talent level at UIC is about to take a step up in the not-to-distant future. In addition, UIC is bringing in some quality kids with no baggage and solid academic backgrounds in Jerome Brown, Fells and Travis out of the CPS. Marc Brown is a respectful "yes, sir" type who showed up for his official visit in a coat and tie.
The long and active Fells, who visited UIC this past weekend, may be a bit of an undersized 4-man at 6-6, but he has great length and very good bounce off the floor. He continues to grow as a player and understanding how he can impact a game, with his rebounding, blocking and altering shots and an ability to play up at the rim on the offensive end.
The upside with Fell is what is so intriguing. Fells is the classic example of the old cliché "his best basketball is ahead of him." He was late to the game in terms of playing experience as he's played competitively for just a short time in comparison to other players. However, when given an opportunity last winter he made the most of it in a limited role for coach Rob Smith and the state champion Simeon Wolverines. Look for his role to expand this coming season as he progresses as a player.
Travis is a steady, do-what-your-told point guard who has been a fixture in Mike Oliver's backcourt at Curie since his freshman year. The 5-10 Travis will fill a much-needed void at the point guard position for Moore and the Flames. He will take care of the ball, defend and provide a presence at the point guard position.
With the help of former Chicago Public League head coach Donnie Kirksey, UIC has made its presence felt in the city. You better believe the addition of Fells, Brown and Travis out of the Chicago Public League will only open more doors for the Flames in the future.