College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

Sam Ayomide
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Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:

Episode 118: Recruiting, recruiting and more recruiting

Illinois landing in a top (insert number here) for Class of 2021 recruits hasn't gone particularly well of late. Brandon Weston committed to Seton Hall. Then David Jones pulled the trigger on DePaul. Jordan Nesbitt choosing Memphis last week was simply the latest in a growing number of "almosts" for the Illini.

That said, Illinois wound up in another top list Sunday when four-star center (at least per Rivals) included the Illini with Memphis, Kansas, Seton Hall, Providence and Wake Forest in his top six. The 6-foot-11, 255-pound big man had this to say about Illinois' recruitment to the New York Times/Forbes Sports' Adam Zagoria:

“I did a Zoom call with them (Wednesday) and they let me know they really want me and what they’ve done with guys. They mentioned Kofi (Cockburn) and showed what they’ve done with Kofi. They said they can do that for me and develop my game to the next level.”

Is Illinois the leading contender for Ayomide, though? Probably not. The going consensus puts Memphis out front for landing his commitment. But just like the cases of Jones and Nesbitt, likely frontrunners in a recruitment can change. Ayomide, a Nigerian native who plays at The Phelps School out of Philadelphia in Malvern, Pa., at least hasn't cut the Illini from contention.

There's likely playing time to be had in the Illinois frontcourt in 2021-22 if Cockburn doesn't stick around for a third year. And if it's not Ayomide who potentially fills that spot, there's always fellow 2021 four-star center Mac Etienne, who Illinois continues to prioritize.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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