Category Archives: College

2021-22 Early Signing Day: Illinois Boys

Making a decision on where to play college basketball is one of the biggest moments in a young athlete’s life.

All year long we track player commitments. These announcements are generally verbal agreements by the players to the coaches and programs they will most likely play for, but they are not binding.

During multiple windows during the year, athletes can sign official National Letters of Intent (NLI) with their programs, more formally binding athlete to program.

For basketball the Early Signing Period this year is November 10-17. The regular period runs from April 13, 2022, through May 18, 2022. 

Below is a list of all official signees during the early period.

Division I Commitments from Illinois

Commitments ordered alphabetically by high school.

Cam Kraft, Buffalo Grove

College: Xavier
Position: Shooting guard
National Rankings: 56th (Rivals); 59th (247); 61st (ESPN)
Notes: Transferred to The Skills Academy in Georgia prior to senior season

Bryce Moore, Carmel Catholic

College: Niagra
Position: Guard

Dylan Arnett, DePaul College Prep

College: UW-Milwaukee
Position: Power forward

Christian Jones, East St. Louis

College: Missouri
Position: Point guard
National Rankings: 3-star (Rivals)
Story: Fox 2: “National Signing Day: University of Missouri signs East St. Louis point guard as part of 2022 class

Bobby Durkin, Glenbard West

College: Army
Position: Small forward

Braden Huff, Glenbard West

College: Gonzaga
Position: Power forward
National Rankings: 166th (247); 4-star (ESPN); 3-star (Rivals)
Story: The Slipper Still Fits: “Gonzaga lands forward Braden Huff

Caden Pierce, Glenbard West

College: Princeton
Position: Shooting guard

Ryan Renfro, Glenbard West

College: West
Position: Power forward

Cooper Noard, Glenbrook South

College: Cornell
Position: Point guard

Nick Martinelli, Glenbrook South

College: Elon
Position: Forward
Story: Elon Athletics: “Men’s Basketball Announces Addition of Nick Martinelli To Signing Class

Trey Pettigrew, Kenwood

College: Nevada
Position: Guard
National Rankings: 127th (Rivals); 141 (247)
StoryNevada Sports Net: “Trey Pettigrew explains why playing for Nevada was the right fit for him

Damari Wheeler-Thomas, Larkin

College: North Dakota State
Position: Point guard
Story: NDSU athletics: “NDSU Men’s Basketball Adds Four on Signing Day

Tavari Johnson, Lyons

College: Akron
Position: Point guard

NJ Benson, Mount Vernon

College: Missouri State
Position: Power forward/center

Robbie Avila, Oak Forest

College: Indiana State
Position: Forward
National Rankings: 3-star (247)

Justin Mullins, Oak Park-River Forest

College: Denver
Position: Shooting guard

Kolby Giles, St. Ignatius

College: Air Force
Position: Wing

Ben VanderWal, Timothy Christian

College: Furman
Position: Small forward

Jalen Quinn, Tuscola

College: Loyola Chicago
Position: Point guard
National Rankings: 3-star (247)

AJ Casey, Whitney Young

College: Miami (Florida)
Position: Forward
National Rankings: 55th (Rivals); 57th (ESPN); 67th (247)

Xavier Amos, Whitney Young

College: Northern Illinois
Position: Forward

Jaden Schutt, Yorkville Christian

College: Duke
Position: Shooting guard
National Rankings: 47th (ESPN); 55th (247); 82nd (Rivals)

Stories

Division II Commitments from Illinois

Austin Ambrose, Batavia

College: Batavia
Position: Power forward/center

Ethan Ivan, Batavia

College: Wisconsin-Parkside
Position: Forward

Justin King, Mascoutah

College: Missouri-St. Louis
Position: Point guard

 

Patrick Robinson, Oswego East

College: Missouri-St. Louis
Position: Shooting guard

 

Princeton Commit Taylor Charles Takes Leadership Role for Burlington Central

Taylor Charles’ defensive prowess has had colleges inquiring about her since middle school. 

“That defensive presence, at the rim specifically, she has incredible ability to change the game from the inside of the basket and out,” Burlington Central coach Collin Kalamatas said. “Not only the shot-blocking element, but her presence around the basket really discourages (other teams).”

The 6-2 Charles, who comes from an athletically gifted and academic-focused family, averaged 10.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 2021’s shortened 15-game season. It was her first with the Rockets after spending her underclassmen years at Montini. It was numbers like those that brought programs such as Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Purdue, DePaul, Colorado and others calling.

The Burlington Central senior, with her collegiate decision behind her — Charles committed to Ivy League power Princeton on June 22 —  has been able to focus on the aspects of her game that could make her a major part of the Princeton rotation immediately after high school. 

“I think I fit in really good with how they play,” Charles said of Princeton. “They’re more defensive-oriented and that being my favorite part of the game … I also think I’ll be able to help them on offense. I have that ability.”

In the meantime, she’s taking charge as a vocal leader on a long-successful program at Burlington Central. The Rockets have a record of 205-54 over the last nine seasons between coaches Mark Smith and Kalamatas — who enters his third year as head coach. Burlington Central will look to Charles to a great degree after the loss of seniors Avery Andersen and University of Indianapolis signee Elana Wells. 

This summer, the Rockets have taken on tough competition from the likes of St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Carmel Catholic, Geneva, Sycamore and Huntley, among others. Kalamatas said Charles has stepped into a bigger leadership role this offseason.

“It’s been a really good experience for her as well as the other girls to slide under Taylor’s wing a bit and learn a lot about the game from her,” Kalamatas said. 

He also said Charles’ ability to get up the floor with long strides makes her a big weapon in the fast break. Charles said she wants to expand and better her mid-range game.

Three-year varsity players Rylie DuVal and Becca Caratti will be integral parts of a team that lost its leading scorer in Wells. Still, Burlington Central returns key contributors from a 12-3 squad that did not lose a Fox Valley Conference game a season ago. 

“I’m just trying to get all of my team motivated,” Charles said. “I think this season especially we’re going to have to play as a whole unit. Nobody can do it themselves. I’m really just trying to build confidence in all of my teammates.

“I just really want to help my team win,” she added. “Of course try to score, block as many shots I can, but I’m not one who has ever really been focused on the stats.”

Both of Charles’ parents are engineers. Looking forward to college, she hopes to study pre-med and ultimately become a neurosurgeon. She’ll jump into a Princeton program on great footing, finishing 26-1 in 2019-20 (the Ivy League cancelled its 2020-21 season due to the pandemic).

“They’re coached by coach (Carla) Berube, she’s an ex-UConn player,” Charles said. “The season before COVID … they were a top-25 team. They’ve been competing at a high level, a good level and the fact she can make that with academics is unmatched.”

Kalamatas’ look into the recruiting process provided him an unfamiliar insight into the Division-I recruiting cycle. Princeton’s desire to bring Charles aboard was notable.

“Most of the teams that had interest from really early on like the Michigan and Illinois types, they didn’t contact me at all,” Kalamatas said. “But there were a handful of schools including Princeton and Yale and Davidson that did reach out to me and talked to the head coaches a handful of times.”

Charles is the third Illinois girls prep player in the Class of 2022 to commit to an Ivy League program after Morton’s Katie Krupa (Harvard) and Evanston’s Lola Lesmond (Yale, after senior year at a prep school in Massachusetts) did so. 

“She’s such a good kid, you see it immediately talking to her, talking to her family,” Kalamatas said.

“I’m really happy she made that decision,” he added. “I know she had her pick of a lot of the top power conferences, but this is the best thing for her to play immediately, get a good education and be set for life.”

‘The Missing Piece:’ Okaw Valley grad wins National Player of the Year

From tiny Bethany, Illinois (population 1,216), Drury University junior Paige Robinson seemed destined for big things from the outset of her basketball career. 

Okay Valley girls basketball coach Brad Ackers saw it from the beginning of her time on the team there. Ackers calls Robinson a gym rat and said he’s not all that surprised by her success.

“Paige’s IQ is off the charts in terms of the game of basketball and her instinct,” Ackers said. “She’s as skilled as any player I’ve ever been around in terms of ball-handling and shooting. That’s been apparent pretty much from the get-go.”

The junior for the NCAA Division II national runner-up Drury Panthers received a phone call recently that may not have shocked her high school coach, but certainly took her aback.  

Robinson had been named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II National Player of The Year. 

“I got a random phone call from my head coach (Amy Eagan),” Robinson said. “Didn’t expect it whatsoever and I started bawling my eyes out. It just proves my hard work paid off.”

Robinson, boasted averages per game of 21.1 points, 4.8 assists, 2 steals and 2.4 3-pointers, and sank 39.6% of her three-point shots this season. Robinson said it was her defense that perhaps had improved the most.

“I was always known as a scorer in high school, and even in my freshman and sophomore year (of college),” Robinson said. “I think I’ve matured as a player and as a person on and off the court.”

The award was handed down just before the Panthers played in the Division II national semifinals in Columbus, Ohio. Robinson had already collected Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season and conference tournament MVP for the Panthers, who went on to fall in the national championship game to defending champs Lubbock Christian 69-59.

When Robinson was being recruited by Drury, while also drawing Division I interest simultaneously, a piece of confidence in Robinson’s abilities from the Drury staff stuck with her. As the 2017-18 Mattoon Journal Gazette & Charleston Times-Courier Player of The Year, Robinson had put many excellent pieces of her game together.

“When I was getting recruited my coach was telling me you’re the missing piece to a national championship and that just really stuck with me,” Robinson said. “That was a huge part in me coming to Drury and I’m glad I’m here.”

Drury was undefeated in 2019-20 before the pandemic brought a premature end to the campaign. Getting as far as Drury has this season, after losing several important seniors from that group, fell largely on the shoulders of the Okaw Valley graduate. 

“We had a lot of people thinking we weren’t going to make it as far as we did,” Robinson said. “We had a few seniors graduate. We had a girl before me, Hailey Diestelkamp, she was the national player of the year and everyone thought that since she was leaving and Daejah Bernard was leaving they thought that we weren’t going to make it all the way. So we just used that as a chip on our shoulders and carried that with us throughout the season.”

The Panthers won by single-digits in the national quarterfinals and semifinals in the Greater Columbus Convention Center. That came after a round of 16 home victory over national power Ashland (OH). 

The game being played at the convention center is the latest in a line of slights that women’s basketball advocates have highlighted toward the end of this past season most notably. 

Robinson said each team at the championship game was allotted 36 tickets apiece, and the game was played in a ballroom. 

By comparison, the men’s Division II title game was played at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, an arena with a seating capacity of 11,000 with seemingly several hundred in attendance (official attendance listed as 1,080). 

“I think when people think of D-II, they think of those kids who couldn’t have made it D-I, but a lot of us had D-I offers and we could easily go up to D-I and compete with those kids,” Robinson said. “I think if people watch us, they can see how high of a level we play at and how much we deserve as athletes. It was disappointing like I said to play at an arena like that, but I think if people give us more support, they’ll see why we think we deserve more.”

The Panthers came from behind multiple times in the tournament to get to the final, and even came from down 20 to within four points in the title game. 

Robinson, who is currently treating some nagging injuries while entering offseason mode, is already thinking of what it’ll take to elevate things to another level next season for the Panthers. 

Paige Robinson dribbles down the court in an NCAA tournament game against Ashland. (Credit -Terry Griffin, DU sports communications)

Not that Robinson isn’t used to playing through trouble. As a high schooler, Robinson fought through what she didn’t know was a torn labrum sustained in Okaw Valley’s conference tournament, and played through the pain to the state semifinals. Ackers also mentioned other injuries Robinson has gutted out. 

“She’s a killer,” Achers said. “She just is.”  

It takes more than nagging injuries to keep her off the floor. 

“We take away It takes a lot of hard work to get there,” Robinson said. “We’re not just going to walk in to the season next year and just expect to get that far. We took a tough loss in the middle of the season, and I think that shaped us into then team we were at the end of the season.”

Next season, Robinson will see how a storybook season fits in the puzzle of the Division II landscape. 

“Losing it last year due to COVID and then actually getting all the way this year, it was a huge stride for us,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we’ll be back there next year.

Oakwood’s Katelyn Young exceeding expectations at Murray State

Photo of Murray State freshman and Oakwood graduate Katelyn Young. Photo provided by Murray State athletics.

In an era of increasingly position-less basketball, former Oakwood great and current Murray State freshman forward Katelyn Young stands apart from most peers on the hardwood.

A throwback post player with nifty footwork and a complete all-around game, the 6-1 Young, Murray State’s second-leading scorer at 13.7 ppg and rebounding leader (9.5 rpg as of Jan. 27) , is surpassing the expectations of not only herself, but also the people who had plenty of confidence in her.

“I wasn’t expecting to make a huge impact like I wanted to right away,” Young said. “I wanted to play some good minutes and everything, but I was not expecting this.”

The Racers lacked a true, big-bodied, tough forward of Young’s caliber in Rechelle Turner’s three-year tenure as Murray State head coach.

That has changed with Young.

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Former Maine West Standout Van Fleet Walking Her Own Path

Provided photo of the family of Dylan Van Fleet, father Jeff, mother Lisa and brother Max.

Dylan Van Fleet delayed her D-I basketball career to hike the Appalachian Trail and raise money for cancer research.

Dylan Van Fleet will always set her own course, even as others follow in her footsteps. The Morton College (Cicero) freshman is quiet in nature, doing much of her talking through her actions. 

Some of that nature is by design, the rest by consequence of her lived experiences. 

Van Fleet’s Chi Hoops Express AAU coach Jerald Davis, who she affectionately refers to as “JD,” describes her as quiet toward adults, but said she has always gotten along well with teammates — dating all the way back to when he first saw her play with the program around fifth grade and continuing as he began coaching her directly in eighth grade.

“Dylan was quiet in the sense of, she was more non-verbal, but she was very, very physical, very aggressive, very tough-minded and highly competitive,” Davis said. “To be honest with you, I think that [her actions] was how she spoke.”

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Q&A with Angela Dugalic, former Maine West Star and current Oregon freshman

Former Maine West all-state performer and 2019-2020 Illinois girls basketball Gatorade Player of the Year Angela Dugalic is having a blast early in her time for the Oregon Ducks, in the midst of a historic year.

Ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press, the 7-0 Ducks have had only had one game postponed due to COVID-19 this season. Duke women’s basketball, for example, shut down its season entirely.

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Illinois DI Hoopers: December 21 Top Performers

On Monday, 36 Division I basketball players from Illinois saw the court, with five scoring in double figures.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Monday Notes

  • Oswego East graduate RayJ Dennis had 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals Monday. He’s averaging 14.3 points as a sophomore for Boise State, up from 4.1 as a freshman.
  • Austin Richie, who played high school basketball for Bloom and Marian Catholic, scored 14 points for Tulsa in a win over Memphis Monday. He has scored 33 points over the last two games after just 8 points over the first four.
  • Curie graduate Dajuan Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Kansas State in a win over Jacksonville. It’s the sophomore’s second career double-double, both in the last three games.
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Illinois DI Hoopers: December 20 Top Performers

A huge day for college basketball with 88 former Illinois high school players in action. In total, 24 players reached double figures scoring, with six double-doubles and the rare triple-double

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Read more

Illinois DI Hoopers: December 19 Top Performers

Saturday was a big college hoops day, with 93 Illinois high school basketball players in action across Division I teams. Twenty-one players scored in double digits, with two double-doubles and two other 20-point scorers.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Williams Scores 11 in Freshman Debut

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Illinois D1 Hoopers: December 18 Top Performers

In the only Friday night basketball we have right now, 66 former Illinois high school basketball players were in Division I action. Of those 15 reached double digits scoring, with a trio reaching a double-double.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Debut Double-Double for Hawkins

Southern Miss had the first five games of its season cancelled, so juco transfer Fess Hawkins has had to wait more than three weeks to make her debut. The former Champaign Central (she played three seasons before transferring out of state) and Vincennes player did not let the chance to finally play go to waste.

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