Henricksen: Illinois, Northwestern reverse roles

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Curie’s Landers Nolley II (21) takes a jump shot from the free throw line against St. Charles North. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

National Signing Day is a little more than a month away for the state’s two Big Ten programs. But there is a role reversal in recruiting for Illinois and Northwestern.

In Champaign, there is a new head coach in Brad Underwood who is trying to resurrect an Illinois program that has missed the NCAA Tournament in five of the past six seasons. The sell of new blood and a fresh culture at Illinois has yet to net a recruit in what is a vitally important recruiting class.

Northwestern, fresh off a NCAA appearance and tournament win, has a red-hot coach in Chris Collins and a budding program with facility upgrades coming and a likely preseason top 25 ranking on the horizon. Plus, the Wildcats have already locked in four verbal commitments.

Here is a look at where Illinois and Northwestern stand on the recruiting front.


The good: Underwood and his staff remain firmly entrenched in the recruitment of several players they’ve targeted for quite some time: local recruits Ayo Dosunmu of Morgan Park and George Conditt of Corliss and out-of-state targets ColinCastleton out of Florida and Landers Nolley from Georgia.

The bad: In what is an all-important first recruiting class for a new coaching staff, Illinois currently doesn’t have a single committed player with six weeks to go before signing day in November.

What’s ahead: The next couple of weeks are huge for Underwood and the Illini when it comes to the Class of 2018.

Castleton, a versatile 6-10 big man, will choose between Illinois and Michigan. He’s already visited Illinois and will make the trek to Michigan this weekend with a decision looming.

Conditt of Corliss is down to Illinois, Iowa State and New Mexico. The late-blooming, high-ceiling 6-10 Conditt will visit New Mexico this weekend and make a decision Oct. 2.

Illinois is in the final mix for Nolley, a 6-6 shooting wing who played his sophomore season for state champion Curie. Illinois is trying to hold off Virginia Tech and Georgia.

Then there is the upcoming Dosunmu official visit set for the weekend of Oct. 13-15. The 6-5 point guard from Morgan Park is among the top 30 prospects in the country and has been the prime target in the class since this staff was hired.


The good: The reward of earning the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth last season is a Class of 2018 recruiting class some currently have ranked among the top 10 in the country.

Collins and his staff have secured four commitments, including a trio of consensus four-star prospects.

Miller Kopp, a 6-7 forward out of Houston, and 6-8 Pete Nance, the son of former NBA all-star Larry Nance, are both top 100 prospects nationally. Jordon Lathon is a 6-4 point guard and another four-star recruit who plays at IMG Academy in Florida.

The Wildcats beat out Texas A&M, Butler and Michigan for Kopp and went toe-to-toe with Ohio State and Michigan for Nance.

Northwestern also has a commitment from Ryan Young, a 6-10 center and three-star prospect out of Pennsylvania.

The bad: Go ahead and try and nitpick Northwestern’s recruiting efforts.

What’s ahead: With the recruiting class completely full, it’s now about counting down the days until the Nov. 8 signing day when Collins inks the best recruiting class in NU basketball history.

Around the state


The Blue Demons did lose their prized, once committed recruit, Tyger Campbell. The four-star point guard out of La Lumiere in Indiana de-committed earlier this month after committing in May.

The lone commitment is 6-4 shooting guard John Diener from Cedarburg, Wis., the cousin of former Blue Demon Drake Diener. DePaul also landed 6-3 shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, who will sit out this season and have two years of eligibility remaining after transferring from Illinois.

Illinois State

While the Redbirds do have a commitment from 6-9 power forward Demontay Dixon out of Tennessee, the other big news was the early commitment from Bloomington junior Chris Payton, a 6-6 forward and top five prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2019.

Look for coach Dan Muller to possibly add one more big man to the mix in this Class of 2018 before signing day in November.


Coach Porter Moser and his staff have so far followed up the banner Class of 2017 recruiting class by adding a commitment from Franklin Agunanne, a promising 6-9 center from La Lumiere in Indiana. Agunanne was one of the leading rebounders on the Nike EYBL circuit this past summer.

Loyola is heavily involved with 6-2 point guard Brandon Wade from Ann Arbor, Mich., 5-11 point guard Shereef Mitchell out of Omaha, Neb., and 6-3 guard Cooper Kaifes from Shawnee, Kan.

Southern Illinois

The Salukis have secured commitments from a pair of in-state prospects, including Carbondale guard Darius Beane, who is among the top 10 prospects in the senior class, and Lincoln-Way East’s 6-6 shooter Sam Shafer.


With such a young roster this recruiting class will be very small for coach Brian Wardle. The primary focus right now is on Orr’s Ty Mosley, a long, athletic 6-5 wing. Mosley has already visited unofficially and will take an official visit this coming weekend.

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