Sharp-shooting Cross has Illini recruiting interest — and feeling is mutual

Sharp-shooting Cross has Illini recruiting interest — and feeling is mutual

WESTFIELD, Ind. — Matt Cross has added nearly a dozen high-major offers to his recruiting haul since the start of this spring's Nike EYBL season.

That those offers came after the 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward opened EYBL action in late April in Atlanta with three 20-point games (plus two more earlier this month in the Indianapolis suburbs in addition to a 30-point effort) is no coincidence.

Cause and effect, if you will.

Illinois was one of the 10 programs to offer Cross in the last month. The Illini's relationship, however, with the native of Beverly, Mass., dates back further. Illinois started recruiting him at the beginning of his junior season at Woodstock Academy (Conn.) as it also pursued 2019 big man Tre Mitchell.

"Since they've been there a little longer than others, I'm definitely interested," Cross said of the Illini. "I appreciate that they've been appreciating my game and looking at me. I've been talking a lot with the coaches, but (assistant coach Orlando) Antigua is the one that originally saw me."

Cross put up solid numbers for Woodstock Academy this past season, averaging 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Centaurs went 37-2. He's been even better for Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) in the last month. While BABC struggled to an 0-8 record through the first two weekends, Cross has put up 22.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Cross has been particularly productive against teams based out of Georgia. He had 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals while going 4 of 9 from three-point range against the Georgia Stars in Atlanta. His 30-point game against AOT Running Rebels came in Westfield, and he added 11 rebounds while going 5 of 12 from beyond the arc.

The corresponding bump in his recruitment followed. In addition to Illinois, he has received offers from Butler, Cincinnati, Creighton, Florida, Georgia Tech, Indiana. Miami and Wichita State since EYBL play started.

"A lot of coaches were talking to me, but Atlanta was a big session," Cross said. "A lot of coaches see me as a mismatch position being able to take bigs off the dribble and smaller guys being able to shoot over the top of them. I think it was good to show my game overall."

Cross' versatility is something he said the Illinois coaching staff likes. The Illini have sent him videos to highlight how he would fit in Brad Underwood's system. It has Cross intrigued.

"I just think the way they play fits me because they find the guy who's in the mismatch position," Cross said. "I think i could play for them. My shot — being able to shoot from distance — helps a lot."

While Cross has had some strong shooting performances on the EYBL circuit, his overall percentage from three-point range was hovering just under 30 percent heading into this weekend's games in Dallas.

Improving his consistency is a goal in addition to developing more as a vocal leader.

The EYBL platform, though, has been the right stage to show off his overall game.

"I knew coming into it that it was going to be good competition," Cross said. "I've been playing against this competition and the older guys all year long. ... I have an overall matchup game on offense, but also I can guard multiple positions on defense and stretch the floor with my shot from long range."

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5605, by email at srichey@news-gazette.com and on Twitter@srrichey.

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