College/Prep Sports Reporter

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

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June 17: At a news conference outside State Farm Center, Illinois coach Brad Underwood discusses the return of the IHSA boys’ basketball tournament to Champaign-Urbana after a 25-year hiatus. Said UI athletic director Josh Whitman: ‘It’s just something that I truly believe is a win-win for everybody.’

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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 167: Pursuing new options

St. Rita's Melvin Bell and Whitney Young's Antonio Munoz have yet to play a single game of high school basketball. The in-state duo won't start their college basketball careers until the 2025-26. Both hold offers, however, from Illinois. The Illini were the first to offer both of the Class of 2025 prospects late Wednesday.

Bell is the fourth St. Rita player with an Illinois offer. The Illini have also targeted 2024 forwards James Brown and Morez Johnson and 2024 guard Jaedin Reyna. Whitney Young also has multiple Illinois targets on its roster in 2022 forward AJ Casey and 2023 guard Dalen Davis.

Bell and Munoz, beyond being Illinois' first prospective recruits in the Class of 2025, have one other intriguing commonality. Both play for Meanstreets. While Illinois still has some targets in the Mac Irvin Fire program — five-star 2023 wing JJ Taylor being the highest profile — the hire of new assistant coach Tim Anderson could portend a shift toward Meanstreets. Anderson was the program's director at one point and still has ties. 

Regardless of where they play, though, Illinois has made it clear it will get out in front for in-state prospects. Bell and Munoz are simply the latest. 

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

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