By Joe Henricksen
A friend of mine named Jonesy, a knowledgeable basketball junkie who follows college and prep basketball religiously -- and all the recruiting news that goes with it -- called the other day and said, "This is the most boring stretch leading up to signing day ever. There isn't one interesting recruitment to follow of any senior in Illinois."
Now Jonesy can be a bit dramatic as he has been known to call in a midday panic needing help deciding between Culver's, Subway and Jimmy John's for lunch. But for the most part, he's exactly right. This has been a total yawner when it comes to recruiting news, commitments and buzz leading up to the signing period. The rare combination of a lackluster class, several players without grades and/or test score in the class, and a few of the top players having been committed for quite some time, has led to the recruiting boredom.
Despite what you read and hear each time a prospect offers up a verbal commitment, every commitment isn't a recruiting "steal" or recruiting "coup" or "great get." Sure, those adjectives and descriptions juice things up a bit, but the players have to go somewhere. And in some cases, especially in the Class of 2012, they are just nice, ordinary recruits. Maybe a college program reaches a bit. Or maybe it was the best offer the kid had -- or the only offer still left on the table. But we don't talk about that as newsworthy recruiting information.
Maybe it's the fact last fall featured some tantalizing recruiting storylines for fans to follow in Illinois and in the Midwest, some of which had fans checking the internet for reports on a daily basis.
East Aurora's electric Ryan Boatright committed to West Virginia last Oct. 18, de-committed Oct. 23 and then committed to Connecticut two weeks later in a wild recruiting ride.
Stanford, Illinois and Purdue, along with all their fan bases, awaited Chasson Randle's decision in late October. Everyone was giving predictions and guesses on this one as it seemed to go back and forth. The Rock Island star, who would go on to lead the Rocks to a state title last season, gave Stanford a verbal commitment Oct. 27.
And although the secret leaked out after a hard-fought recruiting derby between Illinois, Marquette and West Virginia, De La Salle's Mike Shaw's press conference a day after Randle committed provided another buzz in the recruiting world and ended plenty of twisting and turning.
Remember the fall of 2009 when coveted big man Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius was deciding between Illinois and Purdue? That was about about as 50/50 of a recruitment as there could possibly be in the final days before he offered up his verbal. He ended things Oct. 9, 2009 with a phone call to Bruce Weber and committing to Illinois during his junior year.
This September and October? We sit and wait for, what? ... The next Mid-American Conference commitment? (Hey, I love the MAC, but it's not what feeds the recruiting geeks' appetite, creates recruiting waves and makes headlines).
We could sit on the edge of our seats for the next round of ACT scores to come back -- or maybe first quarter grade reports. After all, several uncommitted prospects may need to decide on jucos or prep schools at the end of the day due to academics, while some of the committed players in this class still aren't qualified yet.
We could also sit and wait for reality to set in for many of the seniors who, maybe stubbornly, unknowingly, mistakenly or misguided, wait for scholarship offers that just aren't going to come their way. Hey, kid, take that low-Division I or Division II offer! Take it now!
There is a chance -- and a very likely one -- that just two seniors sign in November with high-major conference teams: Simeon's Steve Taylor with Marquette and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris with Illinois. A year ago, 18 players in the Class of 2011 signed (either in November or April) with schools in high-major conferences. The year before the Class of 2010 saw 13 players sign with high-major schools. This year we may still be at two high-major recruits when the April signing period rolls around.
This has been a recruiting process we haven't seen in this state in quite some time. But that's what happens when you have just one top 100 player in the class (Simeon's Steve Taylor is ranked No. 56 by Scout.com, No. 64 by ESPN.com and No. 108 by Rivals.com). The high-major schools have been virtually non-existent, instead focusing on the bumper crop coming up in the 2013 and 2014 classes. The Chicago Public League has just four Division I commitments to date -- total. And while some commitments are now trickling in, it's been at a snail's pace, due to the various factors already listed (lack of talent in the senior class, poor academics, waiting for bigger and better offers).
But my buddy was right when he said it's been a little boring on the recruiting front. There have hardly even been any intense mid-major recruiting wars. In fact, some of the players committing have hardly had much to choose from when they've made their decision.
Yes, the November signing period is just around the corner. But between now and then there isn't a whole lot to pay attention to or get overly excited about. And, no, the Hoops Report doesn't see too many Class of 2013 or 2014 early commitments from high-profile players on the horizon, either.