Recruiting notebook: Updates from Hillcrest, Evanston and Simeon

Hillcrest star Mar’Keise Irving has 12 offers, including Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

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Hillcrest two-sport standout Mar’Keise Irving is the state’s No. 4 football prospect in the Class of 2021.

Hillcrest two-sport standout Mar’Keise Irving is the state’s No. 4 football prospect in the Class of 2021.

Mike Clark/For the Sun-Times

The dog days of summer leave athletes like Mar’Keise Irving dog tired.

“I go from basketball to weight room then football then back to basketball,” the Hillcrest junior said.

And after that?

“I just take an ice bath,” Irving said.

But all the effort is paying off for the 5-10, 178-pounder, who is generating plenty of recruiting buzz in football.

“Irving is one of the most exciting players in the entire state and he brings a lot of versatility with what he can do on offense and special teams,” Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said.

“It came out of nowhere,” Irving said of the recruiting interest. “But my coach (Morgan Weaver) always told me it was coming, just trust the process.”

Irving ranks No. 4 in Illinois and No. 7 nationally among all-purpose backs in the Class of 2021, according to Rivals. 

He has 12 offers, including Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin from the Big Ten, along with the likes of Iowa State, Cincinnati, Duke and Louisville.

None of this surprises his coach.

“I definitely think he can get a lot more offers,” Weaver said. “I don’t think he’s reached his full potential yet and that’s kind of scary.”

Irving ran for 1,230 yards and 18 touchdowns as the Hawks went 12-1 and reached the Class 5A semifinals last season.

He’s trying to be more multidimensional this season.

“Basically, he’s worked on his hands,” Weaver said. “That’s the big question as far as recruiting him -- ‘Coach, how’s his hands?’ -- and I let him know that.”

For now, Irving is just appreciating the attention and not worrying about coming up with a short list of schools.

“I think I want to start nailing them down (end of) junior year going into my senior year,” he said.

Down to five

Evanston running back Quadre Nicholson, the state’s No. 14 prospect in the Class of 2020, according to Rivals, plans to commit on Sept. 1. He tweeted out his five finalists last week: Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Cincinnati and Missouri.

“This is a big senior season coming up for Quadre,” Helmholdt said. “He has to answer questions about whether he topped out early or continues to develop. I’m interested to see his explosiveness and whether he can take a step forward in that department.”

Nicholson, who has 18 offers, isn’t the only Wildkits back catching recruiters’ eyes.

Sebastian Cheeks, a 6-2, 190-pound sophomore, already has a Power Five offer from Iowa State.

No hurry

Simeon cornerback Chau Smith, the Public League’s top uncommitted player in the Class of 2020, is content to let the recruiting process play out.

“I’m going to make my visits after the season,” said Smith, who is ranked 11th in Illinois and 50th nationally at his position by Rivals. “I’m not in a rush to commit right now.”

Smith, a 5-11, 175-pounder, still wants to add about 10 pounds while improving his speed. And, he said, “my technique could be a little bit better.”

His 13 offers include Pitt, Air Force and Temple. The Owls already have one Public League recruit in their 2020 class: Phillips defensive tackle Demerick Morris.

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