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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Episode 62: Is recruiting older, proven players the Illini way to go?

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.

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The latest batch of recruiting ranking updates dropped Wednesday morning from both 247Sports and ESPN. The former put out a new list for just the 2020 class, while the latter had a new ESPN 100, ESPN 60 and ESPN 25 to peruse for the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively.

While Illinois coach Brad Underwood might be exploiting every possible way to build a roster, he isn’t totally abandoning the recruitment of high school prospects. The Illini are still offering some (OK, a lot) of the best players in the country.

The best way to digest these new rankings? How about a breakdown of every class as it pertains to Illinois recruiting?

Class of 2020

— The Illini have offered 39 of the top 100 players in ESPN’s latest ranking and 40 of the top 100 in the newest Top247. Sunrise Christian (Kan.) guard Jayden Stone and Oak Hill Academy (Va.) forward Jamari Sibley are ranked in ESPN’s top 100, but not by 247Sports. Conversely, 247Sports has ranked Vanier College (Quebec) guard Karim Mané, Hamilton Heights Christian (Tenn.) forward Samson Ruzhentsev and Findlay Prep (Nev.) center Saba Gigiberia.

— DJ Steward is now considered a five-star recruit by ESPN and 247Sports, and the Whitney Young guard is ranked No. 25 in the class by both. The next highest recruit from Illinois is Morgan Park’s Adam Miller, a consensus four-star guard ranked No. 26 (ESPN) and No. 45 (247Sports).

— The highest ranked uncommitted Illinois target is Minnehaha Academy (Minn.) guard Jalen Suggs, who is at No. 12 by 247sports and No. 6 by ESPN. The dual sport athlete is a five-star point guard and four-star quarterback recruit, but Mark Few’s Gonzaga basketball team is seen as the leader to land his commitment.

Davis

RJ Davis 2020 #2 of NY RENAISSANCE 17U pushes the ball at Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC. 

— The biggest riser in the Top247 rankings among Illini targets was Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) guard R.J. Davis. The 6-foot, 155-pound point guard’s breakthrough came this spring and summer playing for New York Renaissance on the Nike EYBL circuit. The now No. 64 recruit in the class (up 36 spots) averaged 20.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 45.1 percent from the field, 42.5 percent from three-point range and 80.9 percent from the free throw line.

Class of 2021

— Illinois hasn’t offered quite the percentage of ESPN 60 recruits as in the 2020 class, with “just” 14 of the top rising juniors in the country on the Illini’s board.

Kuminga

Jonathan Kuminga 2021 #0 of NY RENAISSANCE 17U dribbles at Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC. NOTE TO USER: Mandatory Copyright Notice: Photo by Alex Woodhouse / Jon Lopez Creative / Nike

— Those 14 prospects, though, include seven of the top 10, including No. 1 Jonathan Kuminga. The 6-8, 210-pound Our Saviour New American (N.Y.) forward put up 22.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game playing up an age group for New York Renaissance this past season on the EYBL circuit.

— The state of Illinois is represented by a single player in the ESPN 60 in No. 16 Max Christie. The 6-6 Rolling Meadows combo guard won a gold medal this summer playing for Team USA at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Brazil. He teamed up with fellow 2021 Illini target Adrian Griffin Jr.

Class of 2022

— The Illini have offered just a single player ranked in the ESPN 25 in 6-8 forward Andre “AJ” Casey Jr. The former Simeon standout will play at Tinley Park this coming season, and he’s ranked No. 16 nationally.

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