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Henricksen: Recruiting stretch run begins for top uncommitted prospects

With signing day less three months away, several of the top prospects in the Class of 2017 are narrowing their lists and setting up final visits before making their final choice.

Although the state’s top prospects –– Jeremiah Tilmon of East St. Louis and Jordan Goodwin of Belleville Althoff –– have made their choices, several of the most talented seniors are still up in the air when it comes to their college destinations.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at where each of the top prospects stand as we head into the recruiting calendar’s stretch run.

▪ Justin Smith, Stevenson

After a stellar July which cemented his high-major stock and top 100 national status, there were some heavy hitters involved with the athletic 6-7 wing, who also boasts high academics. With Michigan now out of the picture, there are four programs who have visits set up as Smith’s recruitment unfolds in the coming month: Xavier, Indiana, Villanova and Stanford.

Smith will hit a trio of official visits in September, beginning with Indiana on Sept 10, Villanova on Sept. 17 and Stanford on Sept. 24. But don’t rule out Wisconsin just yet, where Smith had a very positive unofficial visit earlier this month.

▪ Nojel Eastern, Evanston

With so many different offers over the past 12 months from so many high-major programs, it becomes a little tricky figuring out just where Eastern stands in his recruitment. Plus, the list remains lengthy with double digit schools all still involved in varying degrees.

Some of those schools have been involved for a long time while others have jumped in late, with a the variety of schools including Cal, DePaul, Illinois, Marquette, Michigan State, Missouri, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Seton Hall.

The versatile 6-6 guard, however, does have two official visits already set with schools that have been consistently in pursuit: Michigan State and Purdue. There is a trip set to Purdue this coming weekend and a visit planned to Michigan State in September.

▪ Elijah Joiner, Curie

The City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 6 ranked player in the senior class finally saw his stock with others rise this spring and summer.

The 6-2 combo guard will be visiting Illinois State this weekend, a program and staff that has been on the Curie star the longest. Coach Dan Muller and the Redbirds offered Joiner more than 12 months ago and have remained front and center in the Joiner recruitment since.

Joiner has an official visit set with Iowa State for Sept. 30-Oct. 2, and he is figuring out a September date to visit UAB.

With the hiring of assistant coach Emmanuel Dildy at Missouri, the Tigers have stepped up its pursuit of Joiner, while Saint Louis, Duquesne, Ball State, Northern Illinois, Arkansas-Little Rock and UIC are all trying to secure a visit.

▪ Nana Akenten, Bolingbrook

The athletic 6-5 wing certainly has options as he broke the offer bank with 20-plus schools offering. The involvement comes from various levels and different parts of the country. As a result, there may not be a more wide open prospect left on the board as we inch towards September.

Akenten simply isn’t quite as far along in the process as some other players in the class. He has yet to officially narrow his list down, but he intends to sort things out in the next couple of weeks with the plan being to take three to five visits this fall.

From Nebraska in the Big Ten to SMU –– a top 25 program this past season and where former Bolingbrook star Ben Moore plays –– to Illinois State, which has made Akenten a priority for quite some time, the interest is wide-ranging and lengthy.

You can count Colorado State, UTEP, UNLV, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Western Michigan Valpo and Northern Illinois in the mix when it comes to Akenten trimming his list down.

▪ Jimmy Sotos, Conant

The recruitment of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s biggest stock riser in the senior class exploded this summer.

Prior to July there wasn’t a school within 800 miles who had offered the 6-3 combo guard. Then the likes of Drake, Loyola, Illinois State, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Western Michigan all offered and added to his double-digit offer list.

With all the recruiting attention thrown his way, including unofficial visits to Northern Iowa, Drake, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Loyola, Brown, Northeastern and Princeton in the books, there are two official visits next up –– to Princeton and Bucknell.

▪ Christian Negron, Larkin

The athletic forward has one visit lined up to Oregon State, which is set for the weekend of Sept. 16-18, while a host of others have remained involved. Bradley, DePaul, UAB, Loyola, Texas Christian and Texas have all been active with Negron, who is in the process of setting up a few more visit dates.

▪ Demarius Jacobs, Uplift

The recruiting interest surrounding the talented 6-3 guard has fluctuated between low-major and mid-major programs. Jacobs intends to trim his list and set up fall visits, with Southern Illinois making a strong push of late. But Wisconsin-Green Bay, UTEP and Denver are a few of the programs who continue to pursue and be in the hunt for Jacobs and potential visits.

▪ Evan Gilyard, Simeon

The 5-9 senior doesn’t have any visits set up but has a host of schools involved at this point, including Saint Louis, Murray State, Toledo, Tulsa and Western Michigan.

▪ Jacob Keller, Fenwick

An undervalued guard in the senior class who is among the Hoops Report’s top 25 prospects in the Class of 2017, Keller has both Siena and Vermont in hot pursuit. He has already visited Siena and is planning a trip to Vermont in September.

▪ Jameel Alausa, Chicago U-High

Ivy League, Ivy League, Ivy League. Now, which one of these great academic institutions lands a player who is a dream Ivy League recruit? Yale? Penn? Columbia? Princeton?

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport