By Joe Henricksen
There were several players in Illinois who took full advantage of the new April evaluation periods for college coaches. Orion's Tanner Williams was certainly one of them.
The 6-6 senior from the small town just southeast of the Quad Cities committed to coach Porter Moser and Loyola over the Memorial Day weekend, joining a solid recruiting class that will bring size and versatility to the frontcourt for the Ramblers in the future.
The play and recruitment of Williams has been so topsy-turvy over the past 12 months. He began to make a name for himself with is play as a junior, where he showcased his combination of size and athleticism. Then injuries took their toll.
Williams took two steps backward at the worst time in the spring of 2011 when he suffered a torn meniscus late in the season and missed a huge chunk of time. Then with all the eyes of college coaches on Williams last July while playing with the Peoria Irish, his stock took a hit, mostly due to the fact he was battling a very bad ankle injury and playing through it while still getting back into playing shape from the torn miniscus four months earlier. Playing much of July on one leg and out of shape because of the injuries, he was not the same player.
After a rough July and then playing out of the limelight all winter in obscure Orion, Williams fell off the radar -- until he appeared as a healthy, more physical and confident player this past spring.
Always known for his terrific athleticism, Williams came into April and May with a chip on his shoulder and a new player, as the Hoops Report saw with his play in the Spring Showcase. He went from a passive undersized 4-man with athleticism to a player with a purpose, a re-defined body and a ruggedness that matched his athleticism. While his skill level remains a work in progress, Williams showcased great strength and physical play around the basket this spring, rebounding, blocking shots and playing through contact regularly. The big-shouldered, strong physique of Williams proved to be a brute force throughout April.
Even with a growing number of Division I schools interested in Williams, Orion's all-time leading scorer (1,779 career points) was planning on attending prep school power Brewster Prep in New Hampshire. Loyola, however, proved to be a different and better option than all the rest as Williams closed and the Ramblers coaching staff closed the deal. Williams loved the campus, the Horizon League and the fit. Throw in the fact he's close to his brother, who is a student at nearby DePaul, and it all came together.
Williams, who finished among the Hoops Report's top 25 players in the Class of 2012 in Illinois, joins an impressive and large recruiting class at Loyola with size and depth. Moser will welcome seven new bodies to the program. The class includes 6-7 Matt O'Leary from Terre Haute, Ind., 6-8 220-pound Nick Osborne from Muncie, Ind., and point guard Keke White of Peoria Manual, who all signed last fall. Plus, the Houston tandem of 6-4 shooting guard Devon Turk, an all-state player in Texas who averaged 16 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game, and 6-10 shot blocker Jeremy King, who signed this spring.
In addition, Iowa transfer Cully Payne, a point guard from Schaumburg, will be eligible next season after sitting out his transfer year.
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