THE OLD COLLEGE TRY
Many of illinois’ d-1 basketball programs are full of intrigue and poised to make waves nationally
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.
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.
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. ✶