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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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 83: In the Big Ten race, why not Illinois?

The state of Illinois might not have been shut out of the McDonald’s All-American Game, with Whitney Young’s DJ Steward earning an invitation. But neither of Brad Underwood’s top Illini recruits — four-star guards Andre Curbelo and Adam Miller — were among the 24 players chosen.

Curbelo at least had an outside chance given his production this season and the national schedule he’s played for Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.), which has included a pair of Most Outstanding Player awards at two different tournaments in Hawaii and South Carolina. Miller did, too, as a prolific scorer and top 30 recruit.

The third member of Illinois’ 2020 recruiting class has flown more under the radar. Both with his high school team and in the national rankings. Coleman Hawkins’ Prolific Prep (Calif.) teammates Jalen Green and Nimari Burnett garner the headlines and were both McDonald’s All-American picks. Hawkins is a three-star recruit per both Rivals (unranked nationally, 34th at power forward) and 247Sports (201st nationally and 37th at his position).

Hawkins, though, still plays a key role for Prolific Prep and did so this past weekend with the Crew’s 69-62 Hoophall East win against La Lumiere (Ind.) with 14 points. That performance caught the attention of Rivals’ national analyst Eric Bossi.

“Each time I’ve seen Prolific Prep play this year I’ve walked away thinking that Coleman Hawkins is headed in the right direction and will be a valuable player at Illinois,” Bossi wrote in a recent “Rival Views” post with fellow analyst Corey Evans. “He has to get much stronger and learn to compete a little more consistently, but that’s what a college weight room and coaching are for. He can shoot, he’s got pretty good hands and he’s gotten better on the glass.

“Also, he should be walking into a situation where there isn’t too much pressure on him to play big minutes early. Giorgi Bezhanishvili will be back and Kofi Cockburn should be back for a sophomore year. That’s an ideal learning situation for a young player who is on the rise.”

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