Connor Linke has come a long way.
The quick summary goes like this: Overlooked and hardly recruited to a legit mid-major prospect in a matter of months.
Linke headlined a list of “seniors ready to emerge” that the City/Suburban Hoops Report put out last spring, yet when the calendar turned to July he had just one offer — from Army.
The recruiting doors eventually opened but it sure took some time.
“I really hoped it would all work out, but I can’t say that I expected it to happen or to work out the way it did,” Linke said. “I just kept working.”
Now Linke, after adding offers in late summer and throughout the fall, is headed to Bradley. The 6-9 center committed to head coach Brian Wardle Tuesday morning, choosing Bradley over William & Mary, UC-Davis and others.
The Bradley offer came after Wardle got a good look at Linke during a fall open gym in September. Wardle extended an offer on the spot.
The process then sped up quickly, with Linke taking an unofficial visit to the Peoria campus a week later and then an official visit in October. That’s when Bradley moved to the top of the list.
“I had a good feel for the school, the campus and the atmosphere during that unofficial visit,” Linke said. “Then after the official visit I knew it was time to decide.”
The proximity, the coaching staff and the idea of playing in the Missouri Valley Conference won Linke over. He’s a Midwest kid who actually dreamed of playing in the Valley as opposed to the Big Ten — and in front of his family.
“I love the Missouri Valley Conference and grew up watching it and following it as a kid,” said Linke. “Another big thing for me was that it’s close to home. I love my family and love to share my basketball experiences with them. They cherish that, so that was important for me.”
With a terrific frame and legit 5-man size, Linke is a commodity in recruiting. Big men are so difficult to find. The value in finding and having the chance to develop one is enticing for college programs.
Linke already makes a significant impact defensively, using his size, length and instincts to be a legitimate rim protector and anchor. He positions himself so well defensively and offers a solid level of activity at that end of the floor in blocking and altering shots.
“He’s a terrific help defender, times his jumps so well when blocking shots,” says St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin. “He keeps blocks in play, and he’s a terrific rebounder.”
While he remains a bit raw offensively, there is upside as he continues to develop. Linke shows touch around the basket, will finish with a dunk, and the lefty continues to become more consistent facing up to the basket with range out to the three-point line.
Now Wardle and his staff have a chance to continue to the improvement and development Linke has shown throughout his high school career.
“I absolutely love the staff,” Linke said. “They have the best interest of their players. They develop their players well and have a successful program having gone to the NCAA Tournament last year. That’s an opportunity I had to jump on.”