Henricksen: Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson heads to Villanova and more

SHARE Henricksen: Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson heads to Villanova and more
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During this “down time” for high school basketball, fans around Illinois can’t seem to get enough of the Jalen Brunson recruitment.

The Stevenson star, who is the top-ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2015, heads to Villanova for an official visit this weekend. This comes on the heels of last weekend’s official visit to Illinois, which according to all involved went extremely well.

While plenty of Illinois fans may have been in a tizzy that a “great visit” didn’t lead to a commitment, the positives from the weekend actually enhanced Illinois’ chances to land the nation’s top point guard. That’s how strong of a play Illinois made with Jalen Brunson and his family in town last weekend.

Now, it’s Villanova’s turn.

Do the feel-good moments and emotions of last weekend calm down? Can Villanova, who the City/Suburban Hoops Report has always felt was the sleeper in the Brunson sweepstakes, match the superlatives that were thrown around in regard to the Illinois visit?

While the City/Suburban Hoops Report broke down all the pros and cons for each school last week, there is a growing belief that the recruitment could end sooner than later. But as fluid as recruiting can be, especially at this time of year with a commitment here, a great visit or a so-so visit there, it can get tricky for a prospect in making that final decision. The Brunsons will continue to re-evaluate after each step in this process and won’t be rushed.

Simeon’s Morrow taking his time: Aside from Brunson, Simeon’s Ed Morrow is the top uncommitted prospect in the senior class. The highly-productive, blue-collar 6-6 forward has two official visits lined up. But aside from the planned visits to Iowa and Nebraska this month, Morrow is being selective as he narrows down his lengthy list of suitors.

The plan is to play out the fall open gym period, which begins next week as college coaches can get back on the road to watch and evaluate prospects, before deciding on any other visits or cutting his list down.

Huskers hitting Illinois hard: Nebraska head coach Tim Miles and his staff, which now includes veteran coach Jim Molinari, who has spent decades recruiting this state with head and assistant coaching stints at DePaul, Northern Illinois, Bradley and, most recently, Western Illinois, has done a terrific job recruiting Illinois. More importantly, the Huskers have done a terrific job targeting the right prospects in Illinois.

As a result, Nebraska landed St. Joseph point guard Glynn Watson, the No. 86 ranked player in the country by Rivals. Watson committed to Nebraska on his official visit last weekend, choosing the Huskers over Creighton.

Nebraska is also in the thick of things for 6-6 senior Ed Morrow of Simeon. Morrow, an athletic, blue-collar 4-man, will be visiting Nebraska in two weeks.

Might the Nebraska basketball renaissance –– a move to the Big Ten, beautiful new facilities and arena, along with a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season –– include two of the top half dozen prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2015?

Life after Ulis: Marian Catholic enjoyed its greatest basketball success in the school’s history over the past two years. Now, the program’s all-everything, dynamic point guard Tyler Ulis, is at Kentucky, following a two-year run in which the Spartans went a combined 57-7 and won two sectional championships.

Over the past few years coach Mike Taylor’s program has gained plenty of relevancy. But as the Spartans continue to build the program beyond Ulis in the south suburbs, a big blow occurred to slow that process down.

Promising 6-5 sophomore T.J. Smith has suffered what appears to be a season-ending injury. Smith, who tore his ACL and had surgery in late July, played a role last year off the bench for the Spartans and was expected to make large strides heading into his sophomore season. He’s among the better prospects in the Chicago area in the Class of 2017.

Marian Catholic also welcomes a pair of exciting young players to the program as both Chase Adams and Brandon Hurt, two of the better freshmen guards in the Class of 2018, are attending the East Suburban Catholic Conference school in Chicago Heights. Adams, a 5-3 mighty mite, has received plenty of attention already with his high-level ball handling and passing skills for such a young player.

Busy month ahead for Springfield star: Obediah Church, a talented and jumping-jack 6-7 forward, put together a strong summer while playing for the Illinois Irish on the AAU circuit. He vaulted up the City/Suburban Hoops Report player rankings and is among the top 16 prospects in the class.

Before he begins his senior season at Springfield, Church has four visits set up for the month of September, beginning with a trip to Missouri State this weekend, followed by official visits to Wisconsin-Green Bay, Indiana State and Ohio. Any of the four programs receiving visits would be fortunate to land a talent like Church, who boasts high-level athleticism, agility and a promising upside.

Two visits set for Lincoln star: Gavin Block, the versatile 6-5 wing who led Lincoln to a state runner-up finish in March and was instrumental in leading the Central Illinois Net Gain to July success on the club circuit, will visit Bradley Sept. 19-21 and Northern Illinois Oct. 13. Block, who opened eyes in Peoria in March, is still working on a date to visit SIUE.

Big Barret Benson on the road: Having already visited Stanford unofficially this summer, Hinsdale South big man Barret Benson, one of the top prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2016, will get out to a few more campuses this fall. The 6-10 Benson plans to visit Kansas State at the end of this month, with trips to Northwestern and Iowa State the first two weekends of October.

Illinois prospects nationally in Class of 2016: The rivals.com recruiting site recently released its top 150 national rankings. Illinois didn’t have a single junior ranked among the top 50 players in the country –– and just three players in the top 150. Simeon’s Zach Norvell, a 6-4 combo guard, was ranked No. 62, St. Joseph’s 6-10 Nick Rakocevic at No. 66 and Hinsdale South big man Barret Benson No. 87.

By comparison, there are eight players from Illinois in the Class of 2015 ranked among the top 150 players by Rivals.

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