Illinois is recruiting a pure point guard. And, if they get him, they won't have to wait a year or two to get him in the lineup.
He is 6-0 senior Ruben Cotto of Alton, a transfer from Miami, Fla., by way of Puerto Rico. He flew under the radar until he emerged as the most valuable player at the Centralia Holiday Tournament in December. Afterward, college coaches began to take notice.
According to Alton coach Layne Bennett, Cotto is being recruited by Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Bradley, Southern Illinois and St. Louis University.
"He may be the most gifted player in th St. Louis area," Bennett said. "My only concern is if he goes to the next level and plays hard at both ends of the floor. There is no doubt in my mind that he can play in the Big Ten. He is physically capable of playing anywhere in the country."
Cotto has been MVP in three tournaments this season--Alton, Centralia and Chatham-Glenwood. He is averaging 23.5 points, 3.5 assists, four steals and five rebounds for a team that has won 21 games and is contending with Edwardsville and O'Fallon as the leading team in southwest Illinois.
But will he be eligible? That's the only sticking point. He hasn't taken the ACT exam yet.
"His strongest asset is his shooting range," said Bennett, who pointed out that Cotto converts 38 percent of his three-point attempts. "He handles and passes and finishes with either hand. And he is very strong."
Illinois coach Bruce Weber has landed oral commitments from some of the best underclass guards in the state, including Warren's Brandon Paul, Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson, Sterling's Joe Bertrand and Rich South's Crandall Head. But none of them is a pure point guard, a commodity the Illini desperately need.