Illini in Liddell's top five

Illini in Liddell's top five

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois has been seriously involved in E.J. Liddell’s recruitment longer than any other program with an offer to the Belleville West product in the summer of 2016 by then coach John Groce.

The Illini’s pursuit of Liddell didn’t waver after Brad Underwood was hired as Groce’s replacement. Keeping Jamall Walker on staff assured that. Liddell’s relationship with the Illini assistant coach remained key to his continued recruitment.

Illinois is still involved after Liddell named the Illini in his top five schools Monday after deliberating since Sunday night about releasing a top six. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward’s narrowed list also included Ohio State, Missouri, Wisconsin and Kansas State.

Liddell is a consensus four-star prospect in the 2019 class and is ranked as high as No. 32 nationally by Rivals. He’s coming off a successful run on the Nike EYBL circuit — his second — after averaging 14 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game for Brad Beal Elite.

Official visits are the next step in Liddell’s recruitment, which he’s managed to keep fairly low key the last two years. Per a report by Rivals’ Eric Bossi, Liddell’s first official visit will be Sept. 1 at Ohio State.

Beyond Liddell’s recruitment, the 2018 News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year and Illinois Mr. Basketball winner will turn his attention to defending Belleville West’s Class 4A state championship. Liddell put up  20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.9 blocks and 2.8 assists per game for the Maroons in their title run this spring.