Lets face it, recruiting has become a closely-followed sport with ups, downs and emotions like any fan has with any team. And the Super Bowl/Final Four/World Series/Grand Slam of the sport is the early signing period in November. And it's here.
While everyone waits in anticipation for the announcement of Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, the top two players in the state and arguably the two best in the country, there actually are some other recruiting storylines that have unfolded.
Here is the City/Suburban Hoops Report's early signing period rewind.
Biggest Recruiting Coup
■ North Chicago's JayQuan McCloud to Murray State
There were several mid-majors involved with McCloud, a smooth scoring 2-guard, but for an Ohio Valley Conference school to land a player with this much potential was a steal. Now, Murray State is not your ordinary OVC program, but the Racers have themselves a player who can shoot and score at a very high level.
■ Wait until 3 p.m. on Friday
Lets wait another day before answering this one, because this one writes itself if Curie's Cliff Alexander stays home and commits to either DePaul or Illinois.
Most Important Recruit
■ Northwestern landing St. Rita's Vic Law
What else would you call the highest-ranked player the Northwestern basketball program has ever signed? Law is currently ranked No. 66 by ESPN.com, No. 70 by Scout.com and No. 86 by Rivals.com. Throw in the fact he's a local product, and it's something for the NU fanbase to get excited about. Maybe even more important, Law spearheads what is the best recruiting class in Northwestern basketball history, which is a boon for any first-year head coach.
Biggest Recruiting Battle
■ The fight for Curie's Cliff Alexander
The slugfest for a commitment from Alexander is one that will likely go down among the all-time recruiting battles in state history, especially considering two local programs were in the hunt right down to the final day. Drama, rumors and constant speculation surrounded the fact the final four schools, Memphis, DePaul, Illinois and Kansas, were all so deeply entrenched.
Biggest Recruiting Battle II
■ The fight for Benet's Sean O'Mara
While the fight for Alexander made major headlines for the past couple of months, an underrated recruiting battle was Xavier vs. Loyola for the Benet big man. O'Mara finished up his official visits to Loyola and Xavier on back-to-back weekends and couldn't immediately pull the trigger. There was deliberation, tossing-and-turning and, in the end, O'Mara broke Loyola's hearts and chance to land a truly marquee recruit. Instead, O'Mara is part of one of the top recruiting classes in the country at Xavier.
Most Underrated Signing
■ Simeon's Donte Ingram to Loyola
Last year was basically like a redshirt season for Ingram, who transferred in from Danville and played a minimal role for a state championship team. The AAU scene didn't do a whole lot for Ingram's stock, either. So not a whole lot of people in college basketball have been able to get a good read on just what Ingram is and can become. Loyola did its homework this fall, checking in on Simeon open gyms multiple times and found a player who has grown to 6-5 and become more comfortable and confident while no one was really looking. Ingram, brings dynamite perimeter size, length and playmaking ability, may be just as valuable as the other bigger-named wings in the class.
Other Underrated Signings
■ Rock Island's C.J. Carr to SIUE ... Despite proving as much as he possibly could in July, many Division I programs remained scared by his diminutive size. But SIUE had no reservations, nor should they have, and now coach Lennox Forrester has a Hoops Report favorite and underrated player in the 5-6 Carr.
■ Richards' Josh Meier to Chicago State ... He's more athletic than he looks. And despite the lack of headlines, he's ultra-productive. Coach Tracy Dildy has a valuable local piece he's adding to his program.
■ Homewood-Flossmoor's Tai Odiase to UIC ... A true big man with agility, great feet and the potential to be a real presence defensively. He's still a bit of a project, but he's got a bundle to work with.
Biggest "I told you so!"
■ Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis to Kentucky
It's commonly accepted now that Ulis is a legit, high-major prospect and consensus top 50 player in the country. But a year ago the 5-8 point guard was still trying to quiet the critics, grab the respect of national evaluators who rank players and the attention of high-major college coaches. Eventually, they were all on board. But even when big, bad Kentucky was getting involved in recruiting Ulis, some still scoffed at the notion and the reality of it all. With all that behind him, the oh-so-fun-to-watch Ulis can just go out and put together a whopper of a senior campaign.
The Rising Recruit
■ Fenwick's Scott Lindsey
A year ago it was Bolingbrook's Ben Moore. This year it was Lindsey, whose stock skyrocketed in July when he added multiple high-major offers. The versatile Lindsey, who is blessed with terrific size on the perimeter, is still recovering from a broken leg. But Northwestern may have landed a diamond-in-the-rough. There's still a tremendous amount of room for Lindsey to grow as a player. He's still learning as he plays. He shoots it well and is now making plays in transition and finishing at the rim.
■ Proviso East's Jevon Carter to West Virginia
A host of mid-major programs who had been courting Carter for a lengthy period of time were left a little shellshocked in this one. When West Virginia suddenly jumped into the mix for the first time in July, had him on campus over Labor Day and wrapped it up a few days later. Boom! Done. Just like that.
New to the scene
■ Drake and UMKC
Last year both Dayton and Valpo invaded Illinois and did a terrific job filling their Class of 2013 recruiting classes with Illinois products. This year it was Drake and UMKC, both with first-year head coaches in Ray Giacoletti and Kareem Richardson, respectively, and assistants with strong recruiting ties in the state. Drake landed a pair of guards in St. Viator's Ore Arogundade and Cahokia's C.J. Rivers, while UMKC will welcome Morgan Park's Lamont Walker and Cahokia's Darius Austin. Look for both Drake and UMKC to continue to be fixtures recruiting the state going forward.
Best Fit, Best Level
■ Morgan Park's Lamont Walker to UMKC
Look for the ultra-competitive and hard-nosed Walker, a 6-4 lockdown defender, to flourish in the type of style and system first-year head coach Kareem Richardson wants to implement. UMKC wants to extend its defense, trap and get after it. What better player to do that with than arguably the best defensive player in Illinois who has size, length, quickness and a motor that makes him the player you hate to play against.
Best Uncommitted Player
■ Josh Cunningham, Morgan Park
When all the commitments have been given and letters-of-intent signed, there will be one name left on the board that will keep college programs coming back to Chicago this winter: Cunningham. The highly-athletic 6-7 forward is active, plays with a high-motor and has decided to play out his senior year and sign in the spring. As it the case with most spring signees, Cunningham's stock could soar. Interestingly, Cunningham has already used four of his five official visits, with trips to Bradley, Creighton, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
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