O’Brien: Signing Day lacked the usual spark

SHARE O’Brien: Signing Day lacked the usual spark

The class of 2016 won’t be remembered as one of the best the area has produced. There are only a handful of high-major players and less than 20 total D-1 commits.

Pretty underwhelming overall. Unlike past years, ESPN was not in town to document any decisions. There isn’t even a local player signing with Illinois.

It was a pretty good day for two other local schools, though. Northwestern landed Hinsdale South big man Barret Benson and Curie point guard Devin Gage signed with DePaul.

Benson, a uniquely talented 6-9 senior, is an excellent student so he had a multitude of offers. He whittled down his list to Illinois, Indiana, Stanford, Purdue and Vanderbilt before choosing the Wildcats and coach Chris Collins.

“I knew once I committed I wouldn’t go back on my word, I was solid with my choice,” Benson said. “But signing makes it more official, a securing your future type thing.”

There aren’t many high school students confident enough to step up and basically host their own signing ceremony, but it was no sweat for Benson. He also wasn’t taking part in the normal charade that he was signing the real letter of intent.

“Well, it is time to get started with the real fake signing,” Benson said to the crowd in Hinsdale South’s Black and Gold room. “I already signed the real one this morning so it doesn’t really matter if I screw up on this one.”

The Hornets are a senior-heavy team, always a good thing. Benson has the potential to be one of this season’s major stars. That’s exactly what he has in mind.

“I’ve been putting a lot of work in during the offseason,” Benson said. “There were some question marks about how I played in the spring, some stuff like that. I want to come out and dominate this season. I believe I’m the best player in Illinois.”

Another local big man, Rapolas Ivanauskas, signed with Northwestern today. Ivanauskas played at Barrington the past three years but the 6-9 forward transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for his senior year.

Gage has had an eventful high school career. He was a key member of the 2013-14 Curie squad that won the city title, but later had it stripped away by Chicago Public Schools because of paperwork issues.

Gage gave an oral commitment to DePaul back in June, but actually signing the letter of intent was a special moment.

“This is a real big accomplishment,” Gage said. “It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

The 6-2 guard averaged 18 points and five assists last season. He had offers from Bradley, Toledo and UIC. Gage was the first recruit to commit to DePaul coach Dave Leitao.

“I wanted to stay close to my family,” Gage said. “I thought Chicago has embraced me since I was young, so why not stay home for college.”

Gage is one of the seniors in the Public League that could be poised for a breakout year. The Condors have a talented cast surrounding him, including highly-regarded junior Elijah Joiner.

Simeon guard Zach Norvell recently committed to Gonzaga. He did not sign his letter of intent on Wednesday, but is expected to do so sometime this week according to Simeon coach Robert Smith

Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore will decide between California, Memphis and VCU on Thursday. His club coach, Mike Irvin, said Moore will sign sometime during the early signing period.

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