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Signing Day’s top storylines

Here are a few local recruiting storylines that developed in the Class of 2021 that are worth noting. 

Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) shoots the ball over a Rolling Meadows defender last season.
Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) shoots the ball over a Rolling Meadows defender last season.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Basketball fans enjoying recruiting news has become a 365-day venture, especially for the devoted, ardent ones. While some will linger as the 2020-21 season plays out, many of those recruiting story lines come to a close during the national signing period.

Here are a few local recruiting storylines that developed in the Class of 2021 that are worth noting.

Small number of Division I signings

The number of Illinois prospects signing national letters-of-intent this week is miniscule.

There are several factors that have led to this anomaly. Prospects not being seen due to the coronavirus shut down played a part. But more than anything college programs are taking a wait-and-see approach more than at any other time. College coaches are waiting to see if their own players are coming back as all players in Division I will be given an additional year of eligibility, and they’re leaving spots open for Division I transfers next spring.

But the fact is there are only 16 Division I recruits in the state signing this November with three of those being players headed to the Ivy League which does not give out athletic scholarships.

Biggest recruiting whirlwind in Class of 2021

Recruiting drama typically surrounds any nationally-ranked, high-profile prospect. It comes with the territory. But the Class of 2021 didn’t exactly offer up a ton of it during this recruiting cycle.

Nonetheless, the recruitment of Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins wasn’t too far off and was quite a whirlwind, especially for passionate basketball fans in the Bluegrass State.

Hopkins committed early, giving Louisville coach Chris Mack a pledge a year ago. He then decommitted in early August, went through a new recruiting process that included Illinois, and then committed to John Calipari and Kentucky in late October.

DePaul’s top 15 class

Although it was under the radar, DePaul coach Dave Leitao and his staff landed a class ranked among the top 15 in the country. That includes two top 100 talents in four-star wing Keon Edwards out of South Carolina and Simeon’s Ahamad Bynum. West Virginia product David Jones, a 6-6 scoring wing, and 6-8 forward Kok Yat round out the solid four-man class.

Bynum says he’s been in contact and checks in with fellow DePaul recruits from time to time.

“This was the best move for me,” said Bynum. “I’m excited to bring DePaul basketball back for its fans and the city of Chicago. To be comfortable playing at home, in front of family and friends, means a lot for me.”

Isaiah Barnes a part of nation’s best

He’s not the headliner but Simeon’s Isaiah Barnes, who played last season at Oak Park, is a borderline top 100 prospect who is part of the country’s best recruiting class. The 6-7 wing joins an absolutely loaded six-player Michigan recruiting class, including five-star Caleb Houston, one of the top 15 players in the country, and three other consensus top 100 talents.

Ivy League strikes it rich in Illinois

The state has always been pretty good to the Ivy League.

Just recently Fenwick’s Mike Smith led the Ivy League in scoring while playing at Columbia. DePaul Prep’s Perry Cowan (Brown), New Trier’s Ciaran Brayboy (Harvard), U-High’s Jameel Alausa (Yale) and West Chicago’s Tai Bibbs (Columbia) are all part of Ivy League rosters.

The Class of 2021 in Illinois is no exception. However, it’s been very rare to have an Ivy League program nab one of the state’s top five prospects. But Harvard and coach Tommy Amaker will welcome Notre Dame’s 6-5 Louis Lesmond, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 4 ranked prospect in Illinois.

Neuqua Valley’s John Poulakidas, the No. 12 ranked prospect in the senior class, is headed to Yale, while Princeton secured Evanston’s Blake Peters, one of the most prolific three-point shooters in state history.

Best uncommitted prospect

A loaded Niles Notre Dame program boasts three of the top 10 prospects in the senior class. Lesmond is headed to Harvard while Troy D’Amico signed with Southern Illinois. But the third player, 6-1 point guard Anthony Sayles, is now the best uncommitted prospect remaining in the class. Southern Illinois has been heavily involved while Toledo extended an offer last month.