O’Brien: Why Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker didn’t wind up at Illinois

SHARE O’Brien: Why Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker didn’t wind up at Illinois

Talen Horton-Tucker (5) drives to the basket on Edwardsville’s Jack Mariinko (2). Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

Talen Horton-Tucker had a terrific time on his official visit to Illinois this past weekend. The Simeon senior, generally regarded as the No. 2 player in the state’s class of 2018, wanted to commit to Illinois on Thursday according to a source.

But it never happened. Horton-Tucker never gave Illinois an oral commitment because the offer was taken off the table by Illinois. How in the world did Illinois get to the point where it is passing on the No. 2 player in the state? It’s a complicated story that stretches back to the summer club basketball season.

Horton-Tucker and Morgan Park guard Ayo Dosunmu, the state’s No. 1 prospect, began the spring playing club basketball together with the Mac Irvin Fire. Horton-Tucker then left the Mac Irvin Fire to play for a different organization, Team Rose. The pair did not jell together on the court.

Horton-Tucker wasn’t able to impress college coaches the way he needed to and believed he could. Club basketball is about showcasing your skills, not winning. A player needs to be in the situation that allows him to show off the most. The decision to switch to Meanstreets and then Team Rose paid off for Horton-Tucker, he picked up more than a dozen high-major scholarship offers.

The move puzzled the Mac Irvin Fire, which made its feelings known on Twitter. But Illinois kept recruiting both players.

Last week Dosunmu committed to Illinois. It was a major recruiting coup for coach Brad Underwood and his new staff. But then things got complicated. As the week progressed and after the official visit it looked more and more like Horton-Tucker might choose Illinois.

The Dosunmu camp apparently never reached a point where they felt like they were comfortable playing with Horton-Tucker again, so the Illinois staff was forced to choose. They stuck with Dosunmu.

Illinois tried to get both players. It’s hard to blame the staff for that. When you have a chance at the two best players in the state and the Public League, you need to do everything possible to make it happen. But they should have realized before Thursday, ideally before Horton-Tucker’s official visit, that it wouldn’t sit well with Dosunmu.

In the end it left Horton-Tucker out in the cold and alienated Simeon, which has been a vocal supporter and consistent supplier of talent to the Illinois program through several head coaches. For Underwood and his staff, that is the wound that may wind up hurting the most in the long run.

Illinois did not respond to several calls for comment. College coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits until they sign a letter of intent. The Dosunmu family did not respond to several calls.

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