Tate: Recruiting is the worst-kept secret for Illinois' Brad Underwood

Tate: Recruiting is the worst-kept secret for Illinois' Brad Underwood

Podcast: Tate's 29-minute take on all things Illini basketball

Illini coach Brad Underwood has the discretion to reveal his taxes or the results of his medical checkup. He can tell his innermost secrets, including a minor vice or two.

But rules forbid him from informing on the subject he knows better than anyone, and about which we have the most interest ... basketball recruiting.

We'd lap up every morsel. But under NCAA regulations, he can't offer his evaluation of Tim Finke's AAU play (a ragged summer).

No, all he can say about Finke or any hotshot prospect is, "Yes, we are recruiting him."

Underwood might add, as he did, that he's never offered so many players before.

That's about all he is allowed to say. Not how Champaign Central's Finke compares to Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker, or whether Horton-Tucker might be a modern Nick Anderson, or who ranks above Finke and Horton-Tucker on his list of wings, or whether Horton-Tucker has turned his attention away from Northwestern (and possibly Illinois) now that Kansas and Michigan State are showing interest.

It's a numbers game 

My attempts to offer recruiting insights are like traipsing on thin ice as the temperature warms. Let's begin with, "Who really knows what a 17-year-old is thinking?" Or, "How many times will he change his mind?"

But here goes.

Underwood has three open scholarships for 2018 but is permitted by NCAA rules to go one over. So if all breaks well, he might offer four ... which means that someone currently on the team will not be present a year from now.

According to Rivals.com, Underwood has offered about 35 scholarships. Of the 35 athletes, 10 have already committed elsewhere. Ohio forward Jerome Hunter has joined Archie Miller at Indiana. DJ Stewart stayed near home in choosing Mississippi State. Purdue got another center in Michigander Trevion Williams. And so on.

Scout.com, meanwhile, publishes a trimmed-down list of 27 offers, of which seven are committed elsewhere.

So, whatever the actual number of UI offers might be, it fluctuates weekly as players commit or reduce to a limited number of visits — and all the while Underwood is making additional offers.

Dosunmu is UI's top target

Illinois does not appear to be in contention for the national blue-chippers. The UI offer list includes a Top 25 point guard, Darius Garland of Brentwood Academy (Tenn.), but it's 50-50 or better that he'll choose Duke over Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

So while we're throwing around wild numbers like 35 and 27, the actual number with whom the Illini have a realistic chance is more like 12. And, as Underwood states, "We have priorities."

For example, if Underwood lands his No. 1 overall choice, Ayo Dosunmu of Morgan Park, the other point guards would be informed and basically dropped ... that is, unless a long shot like Garland or Florida's 6-foot-5 Elijah Weaver (Florida and Villanova are the leaders) reverses course. Regardless of anything, Illinois will always accept a super player.

Still searching far and wide

Illinois needs a big man. Atop that group is Daytona Beach's 6-10 Colin Castleton, who'll visit Sept. 1. The staff is closely analyzing two Chicago "projects" — 6-9 George Corditt of Corliss and Dosunmu's teammate, 6-9 Tamell Pearson. And Illinois is seeking to arrange visits from Ontario's 6-8 Ignas Brazdeikis and 6-9 Californian Amadou Sow.

Good big men are, as always, hard to find and harder to land.

Meanwhile, the basketball-rich St. Louis area, enjoying an exceptional talent run, has shunned the UI (or vice versa) with the top five from the Missouri side in 2018 looking elsewhere: Courtney Ramey (Louisville), Torrence Watson (Ohio State), Carte'Are Gordon (Saint Louis), Jordan Latham (Northwestern) and Jericole Hellems (undecided). The UI staff's interest in the sector has moved on to junior E.J. Liddell of Belleville West.

With a flock of wings out there, Underwood recently hosted Aaron Henry of Indianapolis, and is reaching out to former Curie sharpshooter Landers Nolley (6-6), now in Georgia.

Hinsdale South's fast-rising Zion Griffin was in a "group of 12" real UI possibilities until he cut his list to four Monday, dropping Illinois. Still, it appears that, while Underwood is searching far and wide, the home state offers some of his most likely strikes.

Look for Dosunmu to choose among Xavier, Kansas and Illinois in late September or October. He is the key to getting the ball rolling for Illinois ... which at this point joins Wisconsin as the only Big Ten teams without a commitment (most have at least two). 

Loren Tate writes for the News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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westcoast wrote on August 16, 2017 at 1:08 am

Attention: If you previously worked for the News-Gazette but got fired, and if you insist upon leveling personal insults at Loren Tate no matter what he writes, please respond now.  

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 16, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Horton-Tucker isn't turning his attention away from Illinois because Kansas and Michigan State were showing interest. It's because he and Dosunmu aren't going to play together in college, and Dosunmu (at this point) appears most likely to head here. If Dosunmu was strongly leaning elswhere, we'd be right there with Sparty and KU for THT, if not leading.

Anyway, I'm not all that worried about THT. There are other wing/combo forward options, and the worries about his positional fit in college are legitimate. If we get Ayo (and I believe we will), we already have a multipositional, do-it-all playmaker to pair with him. His name is Mark Smith, and he's much more athletic and a much better shooter than THT. I'd rather have had Zion Griffin at that spot in this class, but oh well. Onto the next one, as Jay-Z says.


Moonpie wrote on August 16, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Hi, westcoast. I wrote for the Gazoo but wasn' t fired. I resigned in 92 to go to graduate school.

I don't violate the rules of this forum. I offer a limited alternative to a sports writer who is condescending and arrogant in his columns. People who post and break the rules are likely to become banned.

The better question seems to be why you are so touchy about the cheerleader in chief? Could it be that, like Tate, you can't handle anyone with an opinion dfferent than yours? 

I have been an Illini fan since the late 1950s--I'm just as entitled to voice my view here as you or Ancient Tate. I saw Freddie Custardo and Dick Btkus and dave Downey play. Did you? But I don't just blindly accept the athletic department's poor decisions and poor team records.

So, west coast - why not just back off. Post your views and don't go berserk when others do, too.This forum is for all fans and not just the ones in lockstep (or goose step, if you prefer) behind Tate.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

You're as entitled to your views as we are to remind you how petty and small you are for them.

Moonpie wrote on August 17, 2017 at 7:08 am

Hi, illinimike--I've said all along that ALL views are welcome here. That's never been in dispute from MY END. It's you cowpie folks who insist that only lockstep, blind disciples of Ancient Tate ought to post here. That is false. That you feel the obsessive need to re-assert a right -- and call people by silly names, of course -- seems to reveal insecurity. Anyway, good luck posting. You won't deter me from calling out Tate's poor qualities.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 19, 2017 at 10:08 am

I don't suppose I will deter you from calling them out, I (and everyone else) just wonders why you care so deeply. You make baseless assumptions off of absolutely zero evidence, like thinking everyone who has an issue with you is some Loren Tate loyalist. This isn't a thing. There isn't a legion of mindless Tate-ists in these comments drinking the Kool-Aid. That's the most insane part of this. You are literally arguing against the wind. There isn't a faction of "disciples of Ancient Tate." Not a thing. There's just people talking about their favorite team and responding like relatively normal people, and then you spazzing out like a jackass for nearly a decade about a columnist's "poor qualities." 

As far as as your claims of insecurity being revealed, this is classic projection and not much else needs to be said. If you're a real person, you've been in need of therapy for so long that it's probably a lost cause at this point. If you're a troll, you're a terrible one because the narrative you try to push is nonsense. 

I don't recall you ever saying "all views are welcome here" or anything to that extent, but if you did, all you're doing in regards to that belief is paying it lip service. Even on a small-time, small-minded level like yours, your brand of personal insults- whether it's to the writer whose article you're commenting on or the other people commenting- and pettiness has a chilling effect on any kind of real conversation that might include conflicting beliefs. 

If you really believe in all views being welcome, pack up your arguments against strawmen and go home. That will have a tremendously positive effect on all viewpoints being represented, rather than just one sad, lonely old dude dominating these comment sections with hate fantasy. 

cowpie needs a hobby wrote on August 17, 2017 at 8:08 am

"But I don't just blindly accept the athletic department's poor decisions and poor team records."

LOL. Are you at all winded after huffing and puffing at all that straw? You have become trumpian in how delicate your feelings are. Sad!