Many of illi­nois’ d-1 bas­ket­ball pro­grams are full of in­trigue and poised to make waves na­tion­ally

Chicago Sun-Times - - CENTER OF ATTENTION - BY JOE HENRICKSEN @joe­hoop­sre­port

So much is up in the air with col­lege sports — all sports — as we move for­ward. The pes­simism in the voices of the col­lege bas­ket­ball coaches I talk with each day is pal­pa­ble. The Na­tional Ju­nior Col­lege Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced last month no games will be played be­fore Jan. 24, 2021.

But when (if?) we do get back to play­ing, there is a lot to look for­ward to in col­lege bas­ket­ball and re­cruit­ing when it comes to sev­eral Di­vi­sion I pro­grams in Illi­nois. There are some tremen­dous ros­ters be­ing con­structed at some in-state col­lege pro­grams with re­cent past suc­cess to build on.


With three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of 20-plus wins, coach Brian War­dle has re­vived this pro­gram in his five years in Peo­ria.

The Braves have four play­ers re­turn­ing, in­clud­ing sec­ond-lead­ing scorer and top re­bounder Elijah Childs, who played at least 20 min­utes while also wel­com­ing some po­ten­tially high-im­pact play­ers.

Big things are ex­pected from Ge­orge Washington trans­fer Terry Nolan Jr., a 6-4 guard who av­er­aged 9.1 and 10.6 points as a fresh­man and sopho­more, re­spec­tively, while play­ing in the At­lantic 10. Kevin McAdoo, a 6-2 ju­nior guard, be­comes el­i­gi­ble this sea­son af­ter sit­ting out last year fol­low­ing his trans­fer from East­ern Michi­gan. As a sopho­more at EMU, McAdoo av­er­aged 8.6 points and knocked down 40 three-point­ers.

Bradley also adds tal­ented UMass trans­fer Sean East, a long, play­mak­ing 6-3 guard who was granted a waiver and will be el­i­gi­ble im­me­di­ately af­ter av­er­ag­ing 9.3 points and 4.9 as­sists as a fresh­man for the Min­ute­men.

Plus, War­dle and his staff nabbed two play­ers

the City/Sub­ur­ban Hoops Re­port was ex­tremely high on in the Class of 2020: St. Charles North’s 6-9 Con­nor Linke and Oak For­est’s long, 6-6 shoot­ing wing Jayson Kent.


There is a ton to be ex­cited about for Illini fans, es­pe­cially now that Ayo Do­sunmu and Kofi Cock­burn have made it of­fi­cial that they’ll be re­turn­ing.

When you add Do­sunmu and Cock­burn to the re­turn­ing mix of play­ers, along with the ar­rival of a tal­ented top-20 na­tional re­cruit­ing class, the for­tunes are as high as they’ve been since the Dee Brown days. Coach Brad Un­der­wood could have a top-10 team in the coun­try if all the pieces fall into place.

High­lighted by the guard tan­dem of An­dre Curbelo and Adam Miller, a pair of guards whom com­ple­ment one an­other and were top50 re­cruits in the Class of 2020, the re­cruit­ing for­tunes also are on the uptick. Illi­nois al­ready has a com­mit­ment from a fringe top100 player in the Class of 2021 in Luke Goode, a 6-5 shoot­ing guard out of Fort Wayne, In­di­ana.


A change in scenery al­ways brings life and new hope to a bas­ket­ball pro­gram — even dur­ing a pan­demic.

That’s where UIC sits with the hir­ing of Luke Yak­lich this past spring.

Make no mis­take about it, the foun­da­tion has yet to be laid un­der Yak­lich and his staff. But Yak­lich will im­me­di­ately build around the re­turn of two big men: 6-8 Michael Dig­gins and 6-10 Brae­len Bridges.

There is a trio of trans­fers re­turn­ing home, as Hins­dale South’s Zion Grif­fin (Iowa State), Joliet West’s Teyvion Kirk (Colorado State) and Marist’s Mau­rice Com­man­der (Ten­nesseeChat­tanooga) have trans­ferred back to the area. Yak­lich also landed highly re­garded 6-4 guard RayQuawndi­s Mitchell, a trans­fer from Otero Ju­nior Col­lege, where he av­er­aged 15.6 points.

Yak­lich may not be able to work mir­a­cles in


a mat­ter of months, but there is an up­beat feel­ing sur­round­ing the Flames.

The Ram­blers have av­er­aged 24 wins and have gone 40-14 in the Mis­souri Val­ley Con­fer­ence over the last three sea­sons, in­clud­ing one mag­i­cal Fi­nal Four run in 2018. That trans­lates to the most suc­cess on the court of any Di­vi­sion I pro­gram in the state of Illi­nois. And Loy­ola isn’t done.

Coach Porter Moser has ev­ery­one back. That starts with a MVC Player of the Year con­tender in for­mer Ja­cobs star Cameron Krutwig, a 6-8 big man who was a first-team All-MVC se­lec­tion a year ago.

There is a young group ready to take a big step for­ward, in­clud­ing guard Mar­quise Kennedy. The for­mer Brother Rice star was named to the MVC All-Fresh­man Team this past sea­son, while 6-6 Tate Hall was named to the Al­lNew­comer Team. For­mer Young star Lu­cas Wil­liamson re­turns af­ter be­ing named to the All-De­fen­sive Team.

Braden Nor­ris is a 6-0 sopho­more guard ready to roll af­ter sit­ting out last sea­son fol­low­ing his trans­fer from Oak­land. Nor­ris was named to the Hori­zon League All-Fresh­man Team and av­er­aged 8.4 points and 5.2 as­sists while shoot­ing a ridicu­lous 45 per­cent from three (76 of 168) in his one sea­son at Oak­land.

In ad­di­tion, Moser has an out­stand­ing guard com­ing in as a fresh­man in Bay­lor Hebb. The Texas all-stater av­er­aged 21.9 points as a ju­nior, and as a se­nior put up 23.6 points, 4.2 re­bounds and 2.2 as­sists.

Throw in the re­cent com­mit­ments of high­ceil­ing 6-6 Ben Sch­wieger of Waubon­sie Val­ley and DePaul Prep guard TY John­son, a pair of top-10 in-state prospects, and the mo­men­tum of a win­ning cul­ture and suc­cess con­tin­ues un­der Moser.

South­ern Illi­nois

Coach Bryan Mullins be­gins his sec­ond sea­son af­ter sur­pris­ing many in his first sea­son. The Salukis were picked in the pre­sea­son to fin­ish last in the Mis­souri Val­ley and were within one game of the lead late in the sea­son. SIU stum­bled in the fi­nal cou­ple of weeks and fin­ished fifth over­all. But it was as eye-open­ing as a fifth-place fin­ish could have been.

The team is keyed by the re­turn of the league’s New­comer of the Year in ris­ing sopho­more Mar­cus Do­mask.

The Salukis wel­come sev­eral new faces with a nice blend of fresh­men, trans­fers and ju­nior col­lege re­cruits. Keep an eye on po­ten­tial im­pacts from In­dian Hills Ju­nior Col­lege re­cruit, JD Muila, a 6-8, 240-pound work­horse in­side, and East­ern Illi­nois trans­fer Ben Har­vey, who sat out last sea­son af­ter av­er­ag­ing 10.2 points as a fresh­man at EIU.

Mullins and his staff re­cently have hit it big on the re­cruit­ing trail in the Class of 2021. They have se­cured com­mit­ments from Mun­delein big man Scot­tie Ebube and Notre Dame’s Troy D’Amico. Ebube is a top-20 prospect in the class, while D’Amico, a ver­sa­tile 6-7 for­ward, was a re­cruit­ing steal.

Western Illi­nois

Coach Rob Jeter and his staff have grabbed head­lines. Yes, it’s true, WIU has made head­lines. There is ex­cite­ment sur­round­ing the pro­gram.

A pair of top-10 prospects in the Class of 2020 in Illi­nois, Curie’s Ramean Hin­ton and Mor­gan Park’s Mar­cus Wat­son, signed with the Leath­er­necks. Tamell Pear­son, a 6-9 mo­bile and ath­letic big man who prepped at Mor­gan Park, trans­ferred from UAB.

While there is a lot that still needs to come to­gether in the re­build­ing of the pro­gram, there is no deny­ing the po­ten­tial high-level im­pact that’s com­ing to Ma­comb. ✶

Jayson Kent

Adam Miller

Ramean Hin­ton

Mar­cus Wat­son

Troy D’Amico

Scot­tie Ebube

Con­nor Linke

TY John­son

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