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Signing Day: Loyola, DePaul hit it big

Marquise Kennedy signs with Loyola while his coach Bobby Frasor and his parents, Latanya and Robert look on. Photo provided by Brother Rice.

Loyola and coach Porter Moser are still reaping the benefits of being last year’s darlings of March Madness.

That magical Final Four run seven months ago helped trigger what is Moser’s most decorated recruiting class in his eight years as head coach.

Loyola hit it big by landing Brother Rice’s Marquise Kennedy and Naperville North’s Tom Welch, two players who sported high-major interest and offers.

Kennedy and Welch are the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 5 and No. 6 ranked players in the Class of 2019, respectively. It’s the first time in 23 years of City/Suburban Hoops Report rankings that a mid-major school has landed prospects ranked as high as Kennedy and Welch.

This class, which also includes hard-nosed 6-4 shooting guard Paxson Wojcik from La Lumiere Prep in Indiana, will keep the Loyola cupboard stocked for years to come.

“I think what this class says is that players love the culture we have –– the winning, how we’re doing it and with the kind of guys we have in our program,” says Moser. “Plus, they’re able to have friends and family see them play.”

Kennedy, an athletic 6-1 point guard, was the breakout star from Illinois on the AAU club circuit. He chose Loyola over Wichita State, Florida State and Illinois State. Welch, a three-time state champion and state player of the year in soccer as a goalkeeper, is a multi-dimensional 6-8 forward.

“All three of those players fit the kind of kids we want,” says Moser. “They are all tough, competitive, want to win. They have all the right intangibles, but they also have high ceilings and upside.”

They will also join a young nucleus already in place that includes current sophomores Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson and Aher Uguak, along with freshmen Cooper Kaifes and big man Franklin Agunanne.

DePaul: The Blue Demons have their best recruiting class in years. And it could get even better.

Michigan native Romeo Weems is a 6-6 forward ranked among the top 50 prospects in the country. Last year as a junior, Weems, who chose DePaul in May over Michigan State, put together a monster season. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game while recording multiple triple-doubles.

Coach Dave Leitao also landed a local star. Athletic point guard Markese Jacobs of Uplift is the exact type of recruit this program needs but has missed on over the years. Jacobs, who is the 124th ranked prospect in the country by Rivals, is a game-changing talent from the Chicago Public League.

The Blue Demons also added Oscar Lopez, a 6-4 three-star shooting guard from California.

Now DePaul is trying to close in on former Lincoln Park star Terrence Shannon, another top 50 talent in the Class of 2019 who is playing this season at IMG Academy in Florida.

While it won’t match the elite class DePaul signed in 1998, which included Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Lance Williams and Rashon Burno, the addition of Shannon would give DePaul its best class in 20 years.

Illinois: The misses have been well documented, including losing the state’s best player, Belleville West’s EJ Liddell, to Ohio State.

Shannon has been in the picture for quite some time and it could end up being a DePaul-Illinois battle.

But late in the process, the Illini dug deep into Antwan January, a 6-10, 240-pound center from Santa Monica, Calif. Without even visiting Illinois, coach Brad Underwood landed the much-needed big man. Rivals.com has January ranked as the No. 120 prospect in the country and 247Sports has him at No. 87.

Northwestern: The headliner in coach Chris Collins’ three-player class is Robbie Beran, a four-star recruit from Virginia. The 6-8 versatile forward put together an impressive July and is now among the top 100 players in the country.

Beran is joined by Daniel Buie, a 6-2 shot-making guard out of New York, and 6-9, 230-pound Jared Jones from Georgia.

Bradley: Coach Brian Wardle has done a terrific job pumping life back into a proud program as the win total has gone from five to 13 to 20 wins in his three years –– and are off to a quick 3-0 start this season.

Now Wardle and his staff add a talented four-man recruiting class. The Braves signed 6-7 wing Stephan Gabriel out of New Jersey, point guard Antonio Thomas from Memphis, and 6-4 scoring guard Ville Tahvanainen from Finland.

Tahvanainen was the second leading scorer at this summer’s FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, averaging 22.3 points in six games in tournament play.

In addition, Bradley signed in-state guard Jamir Price, a 6-3 guard from Rock Island who continues to make strides.

Illinois State: Coach Dan Muller went to North Carolina for a versatile guard. D.J. Horne, a 6-2 senior from Trinity Christian School in North Carolina, is headed to ISU. The combo guard averaged 19 points, five assists and two steals a game as a junior.

Southern Illinois: Evanston guard Lance Jones and Glenbard West’s 6-5 Evan Taylor are both headed to Carbondale after putting together impressive juniors seasons. Taylor and Jones are ranked No. 20 and No. 21, respectively, in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Class of 2019 player rankings.

Last season as juniors, Jones helped Evanston to a third-place finish in Class 4A, averaging 15.5 points a game, while Taylor put up an impressive stat line of 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game.

Northern Illinois: The Huskies landed a good one Bolingbrook guard Tyler Cochran, one of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 20 prospects in the Class of 2019. The highly-productive Cochran will be joined in the class by Streamwood’s 6-6 Keenon Cole, who averaged 14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and made 23 of 6-8 from the three-point line as a senior.