An intense recruiting battle that went down to the wire and ended on the final day of the November signing period went Illinois’ way.
Ty Rodgers, one of the top 100 seniors in the country, signed with Illinois and coach Brad Underwood on Wednesday.
“It’s a great program that I want to be a part of in playing my college basketball,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers transferred to Thornton in October from Grand Blanc High School in Michigan.
The 6-6 forward has been a highly coveted prospect with a surplus of high-major programs in pursuit, including a final four of Alabama, Illinois, Memphis and Michigan State. In the final weeks and days, however, it’s believed the recruiting race came down to Illinois and Michigan State.
After taking an official visit to Illinois in the middle of September, the momentum seemed to be leaning towards Illinois when he returned last Friday for an unofficial visit to take in the Fighting Illini’s 92-53 win over Arkansas State.
“I fully trust the coaching staff and what they want to do to further my game and help me progress as a player,” said Rodgers. “My development as a player was important to me and I believe and trust they can best prepare me for the NBA. They will get me to play hard.”
Rodgers played this past offseason for Thornton coach Tai Streets and his Meanstreets club basketball program on the Nike EYBL circuit. Following the summer, Rivals ranks Rodgers as the No. 66 player in the country and 247Sports has him at No. 54
Rodgers led Grand Blanc to its first state championship last season. He was named the state’s AP Division 1 Player of the Year. He averaged 17.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals as a junior.
“He’s just a winner,” said Streets, who will now coach Rodgers at Thornton. “He’s always won and is such a great kid. He plays super, super hard and is a throwback who competes on every possession.”
While Rodgers needs to make considerable strides with his perimeter jumper and polish up his overall skill level, he’s a bruising, attacking finisher at the rim. A handful offensively inside 18 feet, he’s also a fierce rebounder, especially on the offensive glass.
A switchable defender with the bulk to handle bigger players and agility to match up against quicker players on the perimeter, Rodgers plays with elite defensive effort. And he provides plenty of highlight, game-changing plays with his athleticism.
He fits the mold of what Underwood has been searching for in a versatile, tough-as-nails, hybrid-type forward with a college-ready body.
Rodgers joins a recruiting class that includes a pair of four-star prospects in Jayden Epps, a scoring lead guard out of North Carolina, and 6-3 guard Sencire Harris from St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio.
“Illinois felt like family to me pretty quickly,” Rodgers said. “I love it here and how everyone loves Illinois around here. It was a fun but stressful process, so there is some relief in making my decision.”