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Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor was Chicago's highest-profile recruit in the Class of 2014. | AP Photo/Journal Star, Fred Zwicky
(This is the first in a series of stories taking a final look at the Class of 2014 in Illinois.)
With the recent spring commitments and signings from Sandburg’s Malek Harris (Kansas State), Springfield Lanphier’s Larry Austin (Xavier) and Morgan Park’s Josh Cunningham (Bradley), the recruiting window on the Class of 2014 is coming to a close.
As far as averages go, this stellar Class of 2014 surpasses the average amount of Division I players this state annually produces. There are now a whopping 47 scholarship players in the senior class in Illinois headed to Division I programs, with 14 players having signed with high-major conferences.
There is a chance a couple more players could be added to the Division I-bound list if grades and test scores can be raised. By the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s count, there will be an additional dozen-plus prospects in the class who will ultimately land at a Division I program after a year of prep school or two years of junior college.
Here is a quick rundown of the recruiting fortunes of the Class of 2014 from Illinois.
When the No. 1 player in the country resides in your state, it doesn’t get any more high profile than the Duke-bound Okafor, though Curie’s Cliff Alexander was a close second. Okafor, however, brought so much positive attention to Illinois and Chicago Public League high school basketball with nationally televised games, two gold medals, winning a state championship and multiple National Player of the Year awards.
The superlatives were being thrown around about the diminutive Marian Catholic point guard long before the high-major offers landed in his lap. Think about this: Ulis was nowhere to be found in any national top 100 lists through three years of prep basketball, yet landed at Kentucky, was named a McDonald’s All-American and finished among the top 30 prospects in the country. That’s one heck of a rise and story for this 5-8 dynamo.
Bradley was in on the Morgan Park star early. However, when Cunningham didn’t ink with the Braves last November it was believed too many heavy hitters would get involved over the course of his senior year. Despite plenty of high-major interest and offers, Bradley locked up the active and athletic 6-7 forward who is among the top 10 prospects in the state and is a top 100 recruit nationally by both ESPN.com and Rivals.com.
▪ North Chicago’s Jayquan McCloud to Murray State
He’s always been a Hoops Report favorite. McCloud, a top 20 player in a loaded class in Illinois, is a smooth scoring guard poised for big things in the Ohio Valley Conference.
▪ Cahokia’s Darius Austin to UMKC
Austin, a strong, big-bodied forward, filled the stat sheet this season, putting up 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks a game. This is a big pick-up for coach Kareem Richardson as he builds this WAC program.
▪ Belleville East’s Darreon Reddick to Tennessee State
On the job for less than a month, head coach Dana Ford picked up a talented combo guard with size and upside late in the recruiting game.
▪ Orr’s Marlon Jones to Loyola
There were high-majors that came on board late, but Loyola hung in there and landed the athletic 6-8 post player with upside. Jones still has some figuring out to do, but it’s not easy landing a player with his size and potential in the Missouri Valley.
▪ Zion-Benton’s Milik Yarbrough to Saint Louis
Just what the doctor ordered at Saint Louis as Yarbrough has always been blessed with offensive abilities and wired to score. Graduation will hit SLU hard after a tremendous three-year run, but coach Jim Crews landed one of the top 20 all-time leading scorers in Illinois prep history.
The multi-faceted forward from Sandburg was back on the board after coach Buzz Williams bolted from Marquette to Virginia Tech. The beneficiary was coach Bruce Weber and Kansas State, who secured the Hoops Report’s No. 6 ranked prospect in the class –– and his first top 100 recruit while in Manhattan –– in the spring.
The St. Viator senior is a jack-of-all-trades, stat-sheet stuffing 2-guard who flew a bit under the radar this past season and was tad bit underappreciated with so many big names in the class grabbing the headlines. The 6-2 Arogundade had a whopper of a senior year, averaging 20.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.6 steals a game. In addition, he tied or won four games this year with last-second shots. He finished as the all-time leading scorer in St. Viator history with over 1,500 career points.
Depending on the national evaluator you follow or what national rankings you look at, there are at least eight Illinois prospects in someone's top 100 rankings. There are 11 players alone from Illinois in Rivals.com's final top 150. Finke, the Champaign Centennial star, can't be found in any of them.
Finke, however, is one of the Hoops Report's top 10 prospects in Illinois. He's a legit 6-9, pushing 6-10, and will only get bigger as he fills out his frame and ultimately become an ideal 4/5 type at the college level. Big men are so difficult to find. A player at his size, with his passing level and shooting ability and range out to the three-point line, is coveted. Illinois may not have landed an instant impact player or superstar, but they certainly have a valuabe piece going forward and an underrated one at that.
Typically, spring time is for recruiting scraps. But for various reasons –– uncommitted prospects, de-commitments, coaching changes –– there was a surplus of quality, high-level Division I talent available late in Illinois. When you consider Harris, Cunningham, Zion-Benton’s Milik Yarbrough (Saint Louis), Springfield Lanphier’s Larry Austin (Xavier) and Orr’s Marlon Jones (Loyola), that’s five of the top 20 players in the state who all had high-major offers and committed and signed in the spring. That’s abnormal.
Though the two will be going the junior college route, keep an eye on 6-7 Mangisto Deng (17.5 ppg, 55 three-pointers) and 6-10 Makur Puou (21.5 ppg, 13.7 rpg) going forward. All season long both just continued to get better and better, eventually leading Mooseheart to a Class 1A state championship. Both Deng, a long, lanky, athletic, versatile perimeter player, and Puou, a raw, shot-blocking presence inside, solidified themselves as mid-major type prospects.
Here is a list of players, listed alphabetically, who will be off to play Division I basketball.
• Cliff Alexander, Curie (Kansas)
• Peyton Allen, Chatham-Glenwood (Texas A&M)
• Ore Arogundade, St. Viator (Drake)
• Darius Austin, Cahokia (UMKC)
• Larry Austin, Springfield Lanphier (Xavier)
• Marcus Bartley, Decatur MacArthur (Saint Louis)
• Keita Bates-Diop, Normal U-High (Ohio State)
• C.J. Carr, Rock Island (SIUE)
• Jevon Carter, Proviso East (West Virginia)
• Josh Cunningham, Morgan Park (Bradley)
• Gage Davis, Bolingbrook (IPFW)
• Justin Diecker, Freeburg (Kennesaw State)
• Dan Dwyer, Fenwick (Penn)
• Amanze Egekeze, Huntley (Belmont)
• Michael Finke, Champaign Centennial (Illinois)
• Armon Fletcher, Edwardsville (Southern Illinois)
• Bobby Frasco, Prospect (Buffalo)
• Jack George, Carmel (Elon)
• Riley Glassman, Fremd (Cornell)
• Kurt Hall, North Chicago (Toledo)
• Ethan Happ, Taylor Ridge-Rockridge (Wisconsin)
• Malek Harris, Sandburg (Kansas State)
• Jalen Henry, Springfield Southeast (SIUE)
• Donte Ingram, Simeon (Loyola)
• Marlon Jones, Orr (Loyola)
• John Konchar, West Chicago (IPFW)
• Deion Lavender, Alton Marquette (Southern Illinois)
• Vic Law, St. Rita (Northwestern)
• Scott Lindsey, Fenwick (Northwestern)
• Jayquan McCloud, North Chicago (Murray State)
• Josh Meier, Richards (Chicago State)
• Tai Odiase, Homewood-Flossmoor (UIC)
• Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Duke)
• Sean O’Mara, Benet Academy (Xavier)
• T.J. Parham, Marian Catholic (Army)
• Nick Norton, Bloomington Central Catholic (UAB)
• Darreon Reddick, Belleville East (Tennessee State)
• Miles Reynolds, Whitney Young (Saint Louis)
• C.J. Rivers, Cahokia (Drake)
• Shawn Roundtree, Edwardsville (Missouri State)
• Brock Stull, Rockford Boylan (UW-Milwaukee)
• Donte Thomas, Thornwood (Bradley)
• Frank Toohey, York (Air Force)
• Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic (Kentucky)
• Jontrell Walker, West Aurora (Incarnate Word)
• Paul White, Whitney Young (Georgetown)
• Milik Yarbrough, Zion-Benton (Saint Louis)
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport
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