Okoro spurns Illini, picks Oregon

Okoro spurns Illini, picks Oregon

What's this mean for the Illini? Ask our beat writer

Francis Okoro told The News-Gazette last month distance from his home in central Illinois wouldn't factor into his college basketball decision.

Apparently, the Normal West big man was telling the truth.

Okoro, one of the top recruiting targets for Illinois and coach Brad Underwood, verbally committed to Oregon late Monday night, announcing his choice via a Twitter post.

Illinois and Purdue were also in the running for the 6-foot-9 big man.

"After careful thought, prayer and counsel, I'd like to announce where I'll be playing college basketball," Okoro wrote. "I'd like to thank each university and staff that took time to recruit me. I'd also like to thank every coach that has invested time in helping me get to this point in my game. ... Finally, I'll be attending the University of Oregon. Go Ducks."

Okoro didn't indicate in his post whether he would reclassify to the 2018 class or stay put in the 2019 class. The consensus four-star recruit averaged 15.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and two blocks this past season for Normal West.

Underwood and his staff made Okoro a priority early on, attending several of his games this past season at Normal West and showing plenty of interest in him this spring during Okoro's Nike EYBL games with the Brad Beal Elite.

If Okoro would have come to Illinois and chosen to reclassify so he would have been eligible for the 2018-19 season, he likely could have cracked the starting five.

Illinois doesn't have a proven post player for the upcoming season with the departures of Leron Black, who announced in mid-March he would turn pro, and Michael Finke, who transferred to Grand Canyon for his final season of eligibility last month. Matic Vesel, who saw limited playing time this past season as a freshman, also transferred away from the Illini.

Greg Eboigbodin is the only returning post player for the Illini after he averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds last season.

Illinois has signed two big men for the upcoming season, with Samba Kane, a 7-foot, 220-pound center out of Florida Prep Academy by way of Senegal, and Giorgi Bezhanishvili, a 6-9, 230-pound forward from The Patrick School (N.J.) by way of Austria, giving the Illini some depth at the position.

But Okoro's athleticism, offensive skill and rebounding prowess made him become a highly-coveted recruiting target for the Illini.

llinois still has two open scholarships remaining for the upcoming 2018-19 season, but the spring signing period ends on Wednesday.

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