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 until practice tips off.
The recruiting calendar might have changed this spring and summer in college basketball, but Peach Jam was always going to have a prominent place in any NCAA revamp. It’s the preeminent event of the summer, with the top teams from the Nike EYBL circuit meeting in North Augusta, S.C., to crown a champion.
Peach Jam tips off today and runs through Sunday. The who’s who of college coaches will be in attendance — Illinois included. The Illini have offered more than two dozen prospects on 16 of the 24 teams competing. Here’s three things you ought to know:
Illinois has offered the entire Mac Irvin Fire starting lineup. All of them. Morgan Park guard Adam Miller is obviously the top 2020 target of the bunch, although Mustangs’ teammate Marcus Watson Jr. had a breakout spring and led the EYBL in assists. There’s also 2020 7-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner — the EYBL Defensive Player of the Year — in addition to 2021 recruits Michael Foster Jr. and Brandon Weston. The Illini are all in with the Fire. Truly making that program a recruiting pipeline could secure Brad Underwood’s position.
East coast push
A look at the current Illinois roster — at least the high schools they attended — reveals a serious east coast vibe. Assistant coach Orlando Antigua’s presence has certainly been felt on the recruiting trail. The Illini can try and double down on their recruiting wins with the 2020 class. Underwood’s next class could keep up that east coast trend with Pittsburgh, Pa., area three-star wing DJ Gordon (Team Final) interested and New York native four-star point guard Hassan Diarra (PSA Cardinals) one of the more recent offers.
Don’t forget the Midwest
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Mac Irvin Fire isn’t the only powerhouse Midwest program Illinois is trying to tap into. DJ Steward might be the only Meanstreets player with an Illini offer, but the Whitney Young product is either 1a or 1b to Miller’s ... 1a or 1b. The top two 2020 in-state products share the top priority spot. Then there’s MOKAN Elite. The Illini have offered four of their players, including 2020 wings Luke Kasubke and Samson Ruzhentsev (Russian would add to international feel on Illinois roster) and breakout 2021 point guard Kennedy Chandler.