Fierce recruiting battles are fun and celebrated. Sure, they’re a little gut-wrenching for fans of the schools still in the hunt with these precocious prospects, and they’re a little tiresome for the coaches in pursuit, but this is the time of the year where those battles take center stage.
Locally, the biggest, most significant wars on the recruiting front have included highly-ranked, big-named players whose recruitments went the distance and were courted by both an in-state college program and national programs with basketball prestige.
While the country’s top player in the senior class, Young’s Jahlil Okafor, is down to Duke, Kansas and Baylor, Curie’s Cliff Alexander still has a pair of local schools, DePaul and Illinois, on his final list that includes Kansas, Memphis and Michigan State.
Alexander, who also officially visited Kansas, Memphis and Arizona, is fresh off his final official visit — to Illinois this past weekend — and is set to decide Nov. 16.
Although all of the following recruiting drama didn’t include a local college basketball program, several certainly did. Here is a look at a few of the most dramatic recruiting battles in recent years.
Jabari Parker, Simeon (Class of 2013)
This one went a month beyond the signing period, with Parker committing to Duke over Michigan State and Florida, just 10 months ago on Dec. 20. Part of the drama in this recruitment was simply due to the profile and aura of Parker and the mass attention he received throughout his high school career.
Derrick Rose, Simeon (Class of 2007)
This long, intense recruiting battle was a wild one. It came down to Illinois, Indiana and Memphis. After leaving Illinois off his list in August, the 6-2 guard made a last-minute, drama-filled and flirtatious trip to Illinois in late October for the Orange and Blue Scrimmage and stayed another day to attend an Illini practice. He committed to Memphis less than a week later.
Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North (Class of 2006)
Illinois was a hot program, fresh off a NCAA title game appearance in 2005. Plus, coach Bruce Weber’s brother, David Weber, was Scheyer’s high school coach. This recruitment, however, took on a life of its own and became a media circus before the 6-5 guard chose Duke over Illinois in a press conference.
Sherron Collins, Crane (Class of 2006)
A one-on-one battle between Illinois and Kansas. The McDonald’s All-American was rumored to be leaning toward committing to Illinois while on a visit to Champaign. He held off and ended up with former Illinois coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks a month before Signing Day.
Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (Class of 2005)
There was a growing belief in the fall of 2004 the athletic 6-8 forward, ranked among the top 10 players in the country, would stay home and play for Illinois and coach Bruce Weber. But one magical home visit from coach Bill Self in September had Wright committing to Kansas without having even visited the campus.