Category Archives: Commitments

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

By Kaleb Carter

Lenee Beaumont has never backed down from playing the best. She’s reaped the rewards of playing around strong competition for years. 

For one, her Benet squad plays in arguably the strongest league in the state: the East Suburban Conference, which hosts the 2021-22 3A state champs and runner-ups (Carmel Catholic and Nazareth Academy). She’s played against strong internal competition since arriving at Benet as a freshman. She’s played at an extremely high level in travel ball and is set to do more of that this summer in the Midwest EYBL circuit. 

The 2023 point guard verbally committed to Indiana University, a rising program in the Big Ten.

She joins a growing list of Illinois Class of 2023 players heading to the Big Ten. 

“Starting up as a freshman, when I was a freshman, I think we had four or five Division I players,” Beaumont said. “Looking up to them it was always a goal of mine, like, that would be awesome. I would love to be in their shoes. Being in their position is a great feeling, a dream come true basically. I think it’s going to prepare me well, always having those types of players around me, being exposed to that level of competition.”

Beaumont said she was happy to have a decision made before the upcoming live period. She can focus on her game and helping her team win. 

“I love to win no matter what. I hate losing,” Beaumont said. “That was definitely something that factored into my decision. I was paying really close attention to them this past season. They had a great successful season and most of the time they were a top-10, top-15 program. They’re heading in the right direction for sure.”

The junior noted that, just like the Benet coaching staff, she feels that the Hoosiers’ staff will refuse to allow her to be comfortable with her current abilities.  She has a drive to be great. 

“I think everyone there has the same goal,” Beaumont said of Indiana. “They’re all very level-minded. … Everyone was super sweet, understanding and very kind. Grace Berger, she’s probably one of the best players in the country, but you would not have gotten that vibe from her. Everyone there is very good people. They’re all about their motto, ‘Do the work.’”

An IBCA all-state first-team selection as a junior (honorable mention as a sophomore) and second-team all-stater for the Associated Press this past season, Beaumont has wowed her coaches and opponents alike since walking into the gym her freshman year. 

“She was playing against (Lexi) Moriarty, and Brooke Schramek and (Kendall) Holmes and those kids, and you could tell in a hurry she just knows how to play the game,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “I personally think she has a WNBA-level skillset. She doesn’t have a WNBA body yet, but she had a WNBA skill-set.”

Kilbride says this having coached a former Big Ten Player of the Year and WNBA player Kathleen Doyle. He said Beaumont’s recruitment process exploded ‘like a grenade’ when college coaches were able to get out and see her live in the summer of 2021, following less live evaluation during the first summer during the pandemic. 

“She’s such a fluid athlete,” Kilbride said. “When she shoots the ball, she’s got a beautiful shot. Literally a beautiful shot. I enjoy just watching her in practice during our shooting drills. It’s fun to just watch her shoot the ball, partly because of the way it looks, but partly because it’s just fun watching it go in so often.”

The long-successful Redwings coach said that Indiana made Beaumont feel like a priority.

“Back in the fall, I told her, ‘You really can’t screw this up.’ Because you could pick out of a hat and you’re not going wrong,” Kilbride said of her college shortlist. “There’s no bad options here.”

Beaumont will head to USA Basketball’s U18 National Team Trials May 31 through June 4. Also getting invitations from Illinois were Lisa Thompson (Joliet West) and Alyssa Latham (Homewood-Flossmoor).

“I just want to show that I can compete against some of the best in the country and do whatever I can to help my team be successful this summer,” Beaumont said. “Also, I’m really looking forward to the USA trials so that should be a great experience as it is and just give it my all.”

After the summer, the goal remains the same. She wants the 2021-22 4A fourth-place Redwings to have a better experience at the IHSA state finals in 2023.

“The goal is to get back to Redbird Arena,” Beaumont said. “That was just a great experience and I know I am and the rest of the team, no matter who is on it, is willing to do that, even though it’s a ways away.”

 

Hinton’s Maturation Lands Him Spot with D-II Power Northwest Missouri State

This summer, early in his final AAU season with M14 hoops, Jonah Hinton was trying to do too much. He was frustrated that his game wasn’t improving as fast as he had hoped.

A new attitude helped. Having confidence and enjoying himself started to pay off on the floor.

“I think a lot of young players put a lot of stress on ourselves with this expectation of being this social media (star) and being five-star recruits and things like that,” Hinton said. “They look at these people like role models and trying to be like them and instead of being more like yourself. I think I figured that out the second half of AAU … after the month of May I figured that out and my performance, I started to play more like myself. I was more aggressive, I was trying new things and a lot of that worked out and helped me out.” 

Hinton, a 6-1, 165-pound guard, said the travel coaching staff, as well as basketball trainer Ryan Paradise, contributed to his changing mindset. 

“I was trying to do too much,” Hinton said. “I was thinking on the court too much and that was causing me to turn the ball over, not be able to handle the pressure as well. Some of the pointers they gave me was just, ‘Keep it simple.’ I think that’s the best advice I got.

“Don’t make things too complicated,” Hinton added. “Just read a defender and make a move, read the secondary defense. And that really helped me as a point guard.”

Former RedHawks star Chris Conway, now a contributor at Oakland University, had similar advice for Hinton.

“I did not play varsity my freshman and sophomore year, but he (Conway) was there watching my games, giving me pointers, just giving me different things to do on the court, and another thing he was saying was to just keep it simple,” Hinton said. 

Having long-held Division I dreams, Hinton elected to commit to Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, which has won three of the last four national championships. The Bearcats’ current roster features Illinois natives Mitch Mascari, a redshirt freshman from Geneva, and freshman Luke Moustakas, a Brother Rice graduate.

“They had recruited me toward the end of my AAU season, but I had been looking at them and I went on a visit right before senior year started,” Hinton said. “The business school is really good and that’s what I think I want to major in. And their basketball program, they are the top Division II program. The system … the way they run their offense and things like that, success, winning, I really want to be a part of that type of culture.”

This season for Naperville Central, Hinton has become a vocal leader who has been willing to make plays late for a now 19-7 RedHawks squad. The RedHawks core has led them to 10 wins in their last 13 games. 

“Jonah and Mantas Zilys and James Jopes, the three of them are a trio, but those two can really score in different ways and Jopes is more of a three-point specialist,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said.

Naperville Central fell to 6-3 in the DuPage Valley Conference after a loss to DeKalb Friday.

“Over the summer, I wasn’t really as vocal because I had other players around that me that they’re going to college to play basketball and that’s what their focus is, so we click better on that level,” Hinton said. “Naperville Central has definitely taught me to be more of a leader, be more vocal so I can get everyone on the same page as me.”

Hinton has already proven his mettle against the DVC, leading the RedHawks from 16 down in the fourth quarter in a 59-56 win over DeKalb and 10 down to a victory against rival Naperville North, 71-61. Sandwiched between that was a heavy 72-53 loss to Neuqua Valley.

So it goes in the parity-filled DVC. 

“He refuses to let his team or himself go down without a fight,” Kramer said of the comeback wins.

Kramer noted that he thinks that Hinton will grow yet, and needs to build muscle onto his frame to excel at the next level. But for now, he’s taking over games like he did against Naperville North and DeKalb. 

“It was unbelievable,” Kramer said. “That stuff doesn’t happen unless you have a great leader, and that’s what he is. He makes his teammates better, he contributes every way he can in all aspects of the game. He’s a special player and I’m extremely happy for him to go to a school of that caliber.”

After developing his game in near every facet — Kramer says he shoots well from deep and in the mid-range, and is finding teammates for looks more than ever — Hinton is looking well-prepared to play at the collegiate level.

“He’s improved a ton from last year,” Kramer said. “We liked where he was at last year, but he’s put in a lot of hard work and just developed all aspects of his game. I think a big part of his game is maturity. He doesn’t get rattled.

“When he was younger he would maybe let certain things affect him,” Kramer added. “[But now] his composure is outstanding and kind of lets the game come to him a little bit more.”

Purdue Commit Sophie Swanson Has Barrington Firing on All Cylinders

Purdue Commit Sophie Swanson Has Barrington Firing on All Cylinders

By Kaleb Carter

RIVER FOREST — Sophie Swanson can catch fire at a moment’s notice. When the ball is anywhere within 30 feet of the basket, she’s the prime threat on the floor to score.

The junior and Purdue commit honed the consistency of her shot over countless hours in the gym, developing a nearly-instant release in part against strong travel ball competition with Wolverinas AAU. 

“I’ve always naturally had a quick release,” Sophie Swanson said. “Especially with AAU and the high level that we play at. With all of that and the competition …you just can’t have a slow release … I get it off quick and it falls.”

That quick release has netted her games with scoring totals this season of 40 (a school record), 36, 33 and 32 — the final total in a recent win over Libertyville at the Midwest Hoops Spotlight Invitational at Trinity High School.

She picked up her offer from Purdue on an official visit on Oct. 23 and committed on Jan. 19. In between, Swanson reached 1,000 career points on Jan. 11 in an MSL West win over Conant. 

“They started recruiting me in September, offered in October on my first visit there,” Swanson said. “I took another visit in January where I watched them play IU and I just knew I wanted to commit. I loved everything about the school. The coaches, the fan base they have, the way they play, it all fit what I want. And they have a new coach so being a part of that era, I know it’s gonna be special.”

With a Division III Illinois Wesleyan signee in Laura Mahlum, a sophomore forward with a Loyola offer in Molly O’Riordan and a do-it-all player in Gwen Adler, the Fillies have sorted themselves out. That has led to a win streak that reached 12 games after Barrington defeated Conant Wednesday. 

Four of Barrington’s five losses have come to teams ranked higher in the Illinois-Basketball.com Top 25 rankings, including two losses to No. 1 Stevenson by a combined 13 points. The other is to Fremd, which the Fillies avenged recently, 62-47, as Swanson scored a program-record 40 points. 

“Even though you have a dynamic scorer like Sophie, it still takes all of us,” Barrington coach  Babbi Barreiro said. “The kids are settling into all of those roles.”

Swanson concurred with the sentiment, saying things have been exciting through the recent win streak and with great home-game environments.

“We’ve been playing really well as a team lately,” Swanson said. “Everyone’s settling into their roles and we’re really coming together as a team.”

Adler in particular played gutsy ball in a 61-45 win over Libertyville with 10 points and 12 rebounds. It’s a departure from the role she plays in the offseason with her travel squad, but she fills her role with the 23-5 Fillies. 

“You’ve got Gwen Adler who is getting rebounds and playing defense and scoring when she needs to,” Barreiro said. “Then you’ve got Molly [O’Riordan] inside who can score. And you’ve got Lauren Mahlum who can score when you need her to, and we’ve got Allison Funk and Gracie Stagnito who are hitting the shots that they need to when they need to.”

So it’s safe to say, the Fillies are getting things together at the right time. 

“We’re really coming together as a team,” Swanson said. “If we keep up the play, we’re looking to make it pretty far in the playoffs.”

Plainfield Central’s Aaliyah Frazier, a Howard commit, Has Message of Optimism

Plainfield Central’s Aaliyah Frazier, a Howard commit, Has Message of Optimism

By Kaleb Carter

 

A dislocated finger and slow start to her team’s season has done nothing to derail Aaliyah Frazier’s optimism for her squad, nor has it clouded the vision for her future.

The junior point guard’s ability to handle the ball with the concise dexterity she normally possesses has been temporarily disrupted. Still, it is not done away with completely, evidenced in a recent 26-point, 7-rebound effort in the Wildcats’ 48-42 win over Plainfield South, her team’s first win of the season.

Frazier sustained the injury on Monday, Nov. 15, and found herself in the hospital. By Nov. 30, she was playing in her first game of the season against Joliet West, having only missed her team’s opener against Waubonsie Valley.

“I have to wear this tape, it’s really thick,” Frazer said. “I have big hands and that’s a big part of my game, ball-handling, shooting all that, it was just something to get used to. When we played against Joliet West, I had like three days to get used to holding the basketball with the tape on my hand. It was a challenge.

“We’re an underdog team going into almost every game,” Frazier said. “We just try to prove everybody wrong. We want to play the best we can. If we lose, it’s going to be a hard win for the other team. That’s our goal.”

Frazier announced her commitment to Howard, an HBCU, in November, just days before the start of the girls high school season.

“I feel very confident,” Frazier said. “Confidence is actually key to playing good games. I just focus on having confidence and giving my team confidence.”

Able to stay low to the ground, cross up defenders and create off the bounce, Frazier told Illinois-Basketball.com that Howard coach Ty Grace likes that she’s a three-level scorer — able to score at the rim, in the mid-range and from distance. Frazier, who called Howard her dream school, is still glowing over the commitment. She’s excited about Howard’s fast pace and defensive intensity.

“For that to happen, not only is it relieving, it gives me more confidence,” Frazier said. “I did this. It’s more motivation as well, because not only did I get that offer, but I have to still work and continue to get better.”

She would not be the lone Illinois native on the Bison roster. Whitney Young graduate Brooklyn Fort-Davis, now a junior, has started seven games this season for the Bison as of Wednesday.

A connection between Grace and a cousin of Frazier’s helped solidify the relationship to Howard basketball, leaving her feeling strongly about the decision.

She also thinks her path to Howard is one that has left her with a lesson worth sharing.

“I didn’t play for a big-name AAU team,” Frazier said. “I played for the Illinois Raptors, which is not really a big name. I never really did. I tried one time, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. So, I would like … other players that are really dedicated to the game, and they’re stressed because they don’t have offers or they’re not getting the look they want or they’re not getting as many looks, I just want to let them know, keep working and if you deserve it, it’s going to come. If you work hard, it’s going to show up.”

2021-22 Early Signing Day: Illinois Girls

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 Signings From Illinois

Commitments ordered alphabetically by high school.

Tessa Towers, Batavia

College: Wisconsin
Position: Center
Quote: “I just wanted to go to a school where there’s a good coaching staff and there’s coaches who care about their players … all their players told me that that they do deeply care,” Towers told Illinois-Basketball.com in the summer

 

Morgan Demos, Benet

College: Navy
Position: Forward
Quote: “Everything about that trip felt right,” Demos told Illinois-Basketball.com. “I met some of the players on the team. I saw the court. I saw what they had to offer with the campus.

Ella Lune, Brimfield

College: Eastern Illinois
Position: Forward

Camille Jackson, Butler College Prep

College: Illinois
Position: Guard
Notes: Had offers from DePaul, Louisville, Arizona State, Marquette, Mississippi State, Missouri, Penn State and others.

Tatiana Thomas, Bolingbrook

College: Kent State
Position: Forward
Quote: “I just had a lot of different schools talking to me so I wasn’t pinpoint on one school,” Thomas told Illinois-Basketball.com in July. “But once I visited them, I liked the coaches. They were really nice, kind and genuine. I got to hang out with the girls and they were super sweet, and I would ask them questions and I feel like they told me how it was. Some people just gaslight you … I feel like they were pretty truthful … it seems like a good place to call home.”

Grace Sullivan, Carmel Catholic

College: Bucknell
Position: Center

Alecia Doyle, Carterville

College: Southeast Missouri State
Position: Guard

https://twitter.com/officialsemowbb/status/1458611330789822468

Elle Evans, Edwardsville

College: North Dakota State
Position: Wing/Guard
Quote: “Elle has a very quick release and will be a prolific three-point shooter for us, but is also capable of putting the ball on the floor and making plays at the rim,” NDSU coach Jory Collins said in a press release. “Her ability to guard almost all positions defensively is also a plus for our versatility on that end. I think the thing that stands out most about Elle is that she wants to be great. She is coming to NDSU with a very clear picture of the career she wants to have and the legacy she wants to leave. Her maturity and focus will allow her to impact our team immediately when she gets here.”

Macy Silvey, Edwardsville

College: SIUE
Position: Guard
Quote: “I really enjoy playing basketball at a fast pace, and that is how coach (Samantha Quigley Smith) likes to coach as well,” Silvey told Illinois-Basketball.com in August. “From what I’ve seen so far, the team feels like I would really fit in there which also helps. It helps that the coaches really believe in me, and I think they think I will come in and help shape their program.”

Sydney Harris, Edwardsville

College: Central Michigan
Position: Forward
Notes: Held offers from Cleveland State, Indiana State, Evansville, Murray State, Wichita State, SIUE, Drake, Loyola Bradley and SIU according to the Edwardsville Intelligencer. 

Brianna Wooldridge, Fremd

College: IUPUI
Position: Forward
Notes: Has played at Lincoln-Way West and Fremd, as well as for Example Sports. Considered Top 10 prospect in Class of 2022 by several recruiting services.

Kammie Ludwig, Geneseo

College: Providence
Position: Guard

https://twitter.com/ladyleafbball/status/1458884451384111109?s=21

 

Brooke Blumenfeld, Glenbrook North

College: Northern Illinois
Position: Forward
Quote: “They play fast, they like to push it up the court,” Blumenfeld told Illinois-Basketball.com this summer. “I really wanted to make sure that the school I committed to would allow me to, if I got a rebound, take it and go. … That’s my thing, I’m six foot and I can handle the ball. And I wanted to make sure I wasn’t stuck down low in the five position all game. And the way they run their offense, they’ll allow me to do that.”

 

Brianna McDaniel, Kenwood

College: Texas A&M
Position: Guard/Wing
Quote: “I knew that that was the best fit for me because after I hurt myself, they called me to check on me, see the things I needed, asked some of the trainers to give me some information,” McDaniel told Illinois-Basketball.com. “They were really hands-on. Even though I wasn’t physically with them, they were really hands-on with my injury and I really appreciated that. I love the team so much. They called me while I was going through [my recovery] … they checked on me, texted me after I had surgery … they gave me a family-type of vibe and I appreciated that.”

 

Whitney Dunn, Kenwood

College: Loyola
Position: Guard
Notes: Held offers from Valparaiso, Central Michigan, Cleveland State, UIC, Coppin State, Chicago State, Indiana State, UMKC, SIU, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Emily Pape, Maine South

College: Cornell
Position: Wing/Forward
Quote: “The coaches and players have made the decision so easy because on the unofficial visit I had just met the coaches,” Pape told Illinois-Basketball.com. “The players weren’t there yet. They were awesome. They were super welcoming. On the official visit I had met the players and hung out with them for the day and they were super cool.”

Bella Finnegan, Mother McAuley

College: Indiana State
Position: Guard/Wing
Notes: Averaged 11 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2 assists per game and made 24 3-pointers in 15 games per The Beverly Review.

Kenzie Hare, Naperville North

College: St. Louis
Position: Guard
Quote: “The way they recruited me made me feel comfortable,” Hare told Illinois-Basketball.com. “I have a great relationship with the staff. I talk to the head coach, coach (Lisa) Stone, every Sunday at 7 (p.m.). That’s been going on for over a year-and-a-half now. Definitely felt comfortable making that decision early.”

Simone Sawyer, Stevenson

College: Penn
Position: Guard

Faith Feuerbach, Sycamore

College: St. Thomas
Position: Guard/Wing
Notes: Interstate 8 co-MVP as a junior.

Joy Bergstrom, St. Viator

College: South Dakota
Position: Guard
Notes: Held offers from likes of Akron, St. Louis, UMKC, Valparaiso and UAB.

Sophie Sullivan, Willowbrook

College: SIUE
Position: Guard
Quote: “I absolutely loved SIUE right when I stepped on campus,” Sullivan told Illinois-Basketball.com in August. “Edwardsville is a really beautiful town I would say. I feel like no one really knows it until you get there. It just gave me a feeling of home, and I knew I could end up going there. I’ve also known coach Quigley for a long time. She’s seen me play since I was a freshman at Montini. She’s such a nice person. I can’t wait to learn more from her experiences as a player and a person because we played the same position.”

Division II Signings From Illinois

Avery Larson, Antioch

College: Truman State
Position: Forward/Center

Amanda Hansen, Fenwick

College: Adelphi
Position: Forward

Mya Davidson, Harlem

College: Lindenwood
Position: Forward/Wing
Quote: “That’s what Lindenwood was for me when I first set foot on campus, it … really felt like home,” Davidson told Illinois-Basketball.com in July. 

 

Oliva Mezan, Lyons Township

College: Missouri-St. Louis
Position: Guard

Hailey Markworth, Lyons Township

College: Winona State
Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Notes: 11.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a junior.

Ava Bardic, Stevenson

College: Illinois-Springfield
Position: Guard

Division III Signings From Illinois

Laura Mahlum, Barrington

College: Illinois Wesleyan
Position: Guard/Wing

Claire Nazos, Batavia

College: Dubuque
Position: Guard
Notes: Played for Illinois Lady Lightning program for 6 years. 

Myah Udell, Harlem

College: Rockford
Position: Guard 

Sara Balli, Lake Park

College: Illinois Wesleyan
Position: Point Guard
Notes: First-team all-conference in the DuKane as a junior. 

Hope Anecito, Naperville North

College: SUNY Canton
Position: Guard

Megan Duzansky, Providence Catholic

College: Benedictine
Position: Forward/Center

Laurelei Thormeyer, Providence Catholic

College: St. Francis (IL)
Position: Guard

Christina Simonetti, Resurrection College Prep

College: Dubuque
Position: Forward

 

Payton Jacob, St. Joseph-Ogden

College: Illinois Wesleyan
Position: Guard

Annika Gustafson, Warren

College: UW-La Crosse
Position: Center

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

 

Seeking Unpredictability, Maine South’s Emily Pape Chooses Cornell

Seeking Unpredictability, Maine South's Emily Pape Chooses Cornell

For Maine South senior and recent Cornell commit Emily Pape, being unpredictable is a matter of habit.
 
Pape had steady Division II and Division III interest going into and through her shortened 2021 junior season. The 6-1 Pape also garnered the interest of programs like Evansville, Brown University and Cornell.
 
A natural left-hander, Pape already brings a degree of surprise to the game in attacking the basket with a variety of different left-handed looks. Heading into her senior season, she wants to prepare in a way that will greatly assist her n her college transition.
 
“I’m left-handed and I love my left, as all lefties do,” Pape said. “Being  … harder to guard, unpredictable. I just want to be unpredictable, be able to fake left and then go right. I will go right, but a lot of people know that I like to go left.”
 
Maine South coach Jeffrey Hamann has seen that hunger for growth as long as he’s known Pape, whose freshman sister Ally Pape is now also in the program. 
 
“She just wants to be really good,” Hamann said. “She’s always had the goal to be a college basketball player ever since I met her. That was … she really really really worked for that. She wanted that really bad.”
 
When isolated from others early in the pandemic – Pape said that she worked a great deal with her sister  – Pape would get outside when possible to shoot, work on ball-handling and add other skills to her repertoire. The sisters served as each others’ rebounders during shooting drills. 
 
Off the court, Pape’s curiosity in the environment also grew during the pandemic.
 
“I’m taking right now an environmental science class in high school, and I’m super interested in it,” Pape said. “Over quarantine I was doing some research about it and I watched some documentaries. I just became super interested in it and passionate about it, and that’s why I came across Cornell.”
 
Pape said her Full Package Athletics coach and trainer Steve Pratt encouraged her to look specifically for college programs that offered environmental science majors. After visiting Evansville in June and garnering extensive looks from other programs in the summer, Pape went on an unofficial visit to Cornell in August and then an official visit the weekend of Sept. 26. She committed right after the visit, on Monday, Sept. 27. 
 
“The coaches and players have made the decision so easy because on the unofficial visit I had just met the coaches,” Pape said. “The players weren’t there yet. They were awesome. They were super welcoming. On the official visit I had met the players and hung out with them for the day and they were super cool.
 
“I went to a class with one of them,” she continued. “They were just so genuine. They really cared. I had just met them and it felt like I was so close with them already. I had a good connection with a lot of the players, and even the two other recruits that were there were already committed. That was cool to be there with them and spend some time with future teammates.”
 
As a junior with a largely talented Hawks team a season ago – Maine South went 14-3, and 10-0 to win the CSL – Pape averaged a team-high 13 points and 3.3 steals. She also had 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and shot 75% from the free throw line in 17 games.
 
With a team that featured a handful of players capable of playing college basketball – Ellie Ronan will play at Oglethorpe this season – Pape stood out, heading the top of Maine South’s press and providing a variety of abilities that enhanced how the Hawks operate offensively.
 
“She has the athleticism, the length, the quickness,” Hamann said. “She’s able to go inside and outside. When you have that combination, and she’s a lefty … when you have that combination of size, athleticism and the ability to go inside and out, you have the potential to play big-time college basketball.”
 
Hamann, heading into his fourth season as Hawks head coach, notes that Pape has an uncanny ability to guard players of differing size and skill-sets.
 
“She might be at the top of her press at some point in her career (at Cornell), just as she is with us,” Hamann said. “She’s so long and athletic. She definitely led us in deflections and tipped balls. We keep that stat. She’s a really good passer too, so she’ll deflect, get the steal, find a teammate. She’s able to get the ball in transition and attack the basket hard. She’s able to step out and hit a three. She’s able to go inside and score against people in the paint as well.”
 
Loyola Academy’s Summer Parker-Hall is currently beginning her first season at Cornell, where Pape will presumably join up with her as the lone Illinois natives on the roster.
 
Heading into this prep season, the Hawks’ aspirations remain high. Pape feels the Hawks’ depth will be as strength as they defense a CSL title.
 
“We have a super deep bench this year, and I think we just have a lot of energy going into it,” Pape said. “Everybody wants to be there. Everybody works really hard. I think we’re just going to have a really fun season, and I think we’re going to be really successful in our conference.”

Example Academy 2022 Guard Nyla Walker Commits to D-I USC Upstate

Example's Walker Plays With Chip On Shoulder, Commits to USC Upstate

The senior guard’s toughness helped her become a Division I recruit.

By Kaleb Carter

Nyla Walker admits she plays with something of a chip on her shoulder. 

So it should come as no surprise that the determination she shows on the court garnered some of her recent college interest, according to Example Academy coach and founder Barry Bradford.

“The week she earned the scholarship attention of coaches she chipped a tooth in one game, busted her chin in another and got knocked out the air in another,” Bradford said. “All this on the road, but kept playing in spite of it all, showing incredible toughness that I think also got coaches’ respect.”

On August 22 the now-senior guard committed to USC Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, less than three weeks after visiting its campus. The 5-6 playmaking guard chose USC Upstate over another D-I offer from Chicago State.

Provided photo from Walker’s visit to USC Upstate.

“Throughout the whole process, I got overlooked because of my height,” Walker said. “A lot of times, people underestimate me because of my height, so that’s something that has always driven me. I feel like being undersized, so-called undersized guards have to work that much harder and make zero mistakes, work that much harder and perfect my game.”

Like most in the Example family, Walker is a South Suburban native, growing up in Glenwood. Walker spent freshman year at Marist, then the past two at Mother McAuley with fellow future D-I players in Bella Finnegan (Indiana State commit) and Faith Okorie (numerous DI offers). 

Playing with future college players during both the high school and AAU seasons, with Example Sports AAU, has expanded Walker’s playmaking abilities.

Bradford said Walker sees things happening early on the court, allowing her to make on-time passes, and she communicates with teammates in a way that facilitates connections. 

“I always try to make sure I know personnel so I can make the right decision, who to pass it to, when to pass it to them and how to pass it to them and stuff like that,” Walker said. “Being a playmaker, I feel like I have to know when and when not to take a certain shot, and when to pass the ball and when to do this and that. Just making the best decisions off a certain read.”

For USC Upstate, second-year head coach Becky Burke is only the program’s second coach in its 16 years at the D-I level.

The now-senior point guard wasn’t overlooked by the Spartan program. 

Walker, who said she appreciated the family-like and supportive atmosphere shown by the basketball program, chose USC Upstate in-part due to its Kinesiology major. She may pursue a path in athletic training or physical therapy. 

“Off the court she is as quality of a human being as you could find,” Bradford said. “She lights up the room with her personality and character. Brings positive energy to all.”

An unconventional learning process in a prep school — Walker attends campus on-site and takes remote classes in an online classroom with her teammates/schoolmates — she has found that her time thus far at Example Academy is preparing her for the future. 

“Just having to lock in, with us being so busy especially when we start traveling, you really have to lock in and stay focused,” Walker said. “I know a lot of the time when you talk to college coaches or students and stuff, they always talk about time management and how they struggle with that or how they struggle with the transition [to college]. Prep school at the academy is basically like the college experience, it prepares you for that to make sure you have time management and stay locked in.”

When she heads down to Spartanburg, she is welcoming the opportunity to chase a better version of herself with the support she’s hopeful to receive from coaches and teammates alike. 

“The basketball program … they really lock in on, ‘This is hard work,’” Walker said. “They’re very detail-oriented also. If you mess up … if one small detail is off, they’re correcting it. I’m not saying they want perfection, but they want as close to perfect as they can, you know? And that’s the vibe I got and I thought it was awesome.”

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Top Illinois 2022 Recruit, Kenwood’s Brianna McDaniel, Commits to Texas A&M

Top Illinois 2022 Recruit, Kenwood's Brianna McDaniel, Commits to Texas A&M

For Brianna McDaniel — the top-ranked player in the state of Illinois and a consensus class of 2022 top 50 recruit in the nation — the past year has produced some of the toughest months of her life.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed and then shortened her junior season, and she caught the virus herself. She had a grandfather and cousin pass away. And on March 7 she sustained a torn ACL and partially torn meniscus in a game against Evanston.

Now she only looks forward, counting on the support she’s received from family, coaches and friends, committing to play college basketball at Texas A&M University. 

“I knew that that was the best fit for me because after I hurt myself, they called me to check on me, see the things I needed, asked some of the trainers to give me some information,” McDaniel said. “They were really hands-on. Even though I wasn’t physically with them, they were really hands-on with my injury and I really appreciated that. I love the team so much. They called me while I was going through [my recovery] … they checked on me, texted me after I had surgery … they gave me a family-type of vibe and I appreciated that.”

McDaniel, who plans to use her education to become a veterinarian, announced her commitment on Zoom and at a party Thursday. She chose Texas A&M over offers from more than 30 Division I programs, with Mississippi State and Georgia following close behind. Texas and Louisville were also among the final five.

Brianna McDaniel playing for AAU team Chicago Hoops Express. (Photo credit: Debra Prochaska)

Brianna and her family felt that the coaching staff at the perennial power presented a supportive but motivating presence. A personal connection with the assistant coaches made McDaniel feel more comfortable in her visits to College Station, Texas. Shamona McDaniel, Brianna’s mother, was strongly in agreement with her daughter about the nature of the A&M staff. 

“I really love how straightforward coach (Vernette) Skeete is,” Shamona McDaniel said. “Though, she is very happy and she’s playful with the kids. She can get down on their level, but when it’s time to really dig in and really get them to focus, she does not play.”

Brianna McDaniel comes from a basketball family. Her mother is a coach at Hyde Park Academy. Her father, Adrian McDaniel, is a coach with the Lady Dribblers and Chi Hoops Express, programs Brianna McDaniel has been part of in AAU. Her sister, Shadrian, plays guard for St. Francis University in Joliet.

“I really leaned on them a lot,” McDaniel said of her family. “They’ll be shipping me off to school. I’m in someone else’s care, and I’ve always been in their care for 17 years, so it’s gonna be hard for them to give their child away. Knowing [Texas A&M’s] coaches and knowing they’ll have [in mind] my best interests was a little easy on their minds. It’s hard to let their last child [move] away.”

Under Gary Blair, head coach at Texas A&M since 2003, the Aggies have gone to 15 consecutive NCAA tournaments. He is fifth among active coaches at the Division I level with 838 wins. Also playing a role in McDaniel’s recruitment, the Aggies have two other Chicago natives on the roster: Whitney Young alumni Kay Kay Green and Maliyah Johnson.

“They’ve done an extremely great job of making her feel wanted and needed,” Kenwood coach Andre Lewis said. “Going above and beyond and being a top priority.”

“I think she’ll fit in tremendously,” Jerald Davis, McDaniel’s longtime grassroots coach, said. “She’s always had a great relationship with Kayla Greene. They’ve always been great friends. That helps bridge the gap.”

McDaniel will come into the program with preexisting relationships with her new teammates.

“[Green is] a good person to play with,” McDaniel said. “I love her. She’s just a great person. Maliyah, she’s literally another me. “We’re so silly together.”

Davis, who has coached McDaniel with Lady Dribblers and Chi Hoops Express, felt that several schools established good relationships with McDaniel. But Texas A&M’s academic options were ideal for her future. 

“Ultimately it came down to how she felt going down to the Texas A&M campus and wanting to be a veterinarian,” Davis said.  “I think Texas A&M really showed out and gave her a feeling like she was home.”

McDaniel Recovering for Senior Season

McDaniel, already a 1,000-point scorer for Kenwood in essentially two-and-a-half seasons, was in the midst of another all-state caliber season when she was injured. She had surgery and is still in the midst of her recovery process, expecting to return to came action in December.

“It’s been a little tough because I’m taking a few steps forward and I’m taking a few steps back,” McDaniel said. “But at the same time, I just know I’ve got to look at the brighter side. I’m doing better than I was when I first went into physical therapy. When I went into physical therapy before, I couldn’t lift up my leg on my own.”

In the COVID-19-shortened 2021 season, Kenwood finished with a 13-0 record, winning the last handful of games without McDaniel, including a comeback road win at then-undefeated and defending state champion Simeon. According to Lewis, she was shooting 63 percent from the floor. She became the first girls player in Kenwood history to earn first-team all-state honors.

The Broncos also bring back fellow senior Whitney Dunn, a Loyola commit we profiled in March. The pair will lead a roster loaded with future Division-I players that will be among the most talented in the state.

“[McDaniel has] helped transform this program from being an above-average program to a very good program,” Lewis said. “She’s also done a very good job of attracting other players. She’s done so with a bull’s eye on her back.

“Bri has always been a leader,” Lewis continued. “It has changed in a sense in that she’s had to be more a [leader] vocally now than by her actions [because of the injury]. And she’s helped me. She’s always working hard on the floor.”

As her physical therapy continues, McDaniel said she has had to look at basketball through a different lens. 

“I think it was God’s plan to tell me to slow down, because I don’t ever slow down,” McDaniel said. 

Still, those closest to her know that doesn’t mean her tenacity is gone.

“Her passion and her love for the game have never waned,” Davis said. “[She has] the tenacity and the toughness to grind through the good days and the bad days.”

Brianna McDaniel in her Kenwood uniform. (Photo credit Debra Prochaska)

Q&A: Willowbrook’s Sophie Sullivan Commits to SIU-Edwardsville

For the SIU-Edwardsville women’s program, the 2022 recruiting class is coming together with Illinois prep talent.

Its latest commit is Sophie Sullivan, a Willowbrook point guard who spent her underclassmen years Montini. As a junior she helped lead the resurgent Warriors, to a 14-2 record overall, including 6-0 in West Suburban Conference Gold play, as well as a WSC tournament title.

Sullivan, who announced her commitment on August 13, joins Edwardsville’s Macy Silvey in the recruiting class. Illinois-Basketball.com recently profiled Silvey about her decision to stay close to home.

Sullivan will lead the way this season for Willowbrook after the graduation of Taris Thornton, who is now at Eastern Illinois. Still, the Warriors will return a boatload of talent.

I interviewed Sullivan about her college decision, SIUE’s program, the upcoming high school season and much more.

Illinois-Basketball: What were the most crucial factors that went into picking your college, and how nice does it feel to have that decision out of the way when you start your senior year? 

Sullivan: I absolutely loved SIUE right when I stepped on campus. Edwardsville is a really beautiful town I would say. I feel like no one really knows it until you get there. It just gave me a feeling of home, and I knew I could end up going there. I’ve also known coach Quigley for a long time. She’s seen me play since I was a freshman at Montini. She’s such a nice person. I can’t wait to learn more from her experiences as a player and a person because we played the same position.

I-B: What appeals to you about what SIUE does on the court?

Sullivan: I really like how they play fast because I’m a point guard and I like to push the ball up the court. I feel like I can contribute a lot with my rebounding because for like a smaller guard I would say I can rebound amongst the bigger players and that’ll help get the ball up the court in transition.

I-B: With last year being an odd season, what did you get out of your junior year at Willowbrook and what are you hoping to get out of your senior season?

Sullivan: I was leading on the court, but not so much vocally because I was younger with a bunch of upperclassmen. But then as I got to Willowbrook I think I really took on a leadership role and I helped my team to the first conference championship in a long time. So that was really exciting for my team and for the girls in general. Especially for the seniors to end on a win against a really good (Lyons Township) team was really awesome.

I’m really excited for this year. Especially when I was a freshman, I always looked forward to being a senior and being able to lead all the team workouts and lead the team in general. I feel like the girls really looked up to me and the other upperclassmen on the team since there’s not really a lot of us. There’s two seniors and seven juniors and we have a pretty young team I would say.

I-B: Now that you’ve committed, what are your long-term goals on or off the court?

Sullivan: I’m going to work really hard in this offseason my senior year, and then when I get to SIUE I hope to make the biggest impact possible, whether that be what I do on the court or how I’m cheering my teammates on the bench. I’m thinking about majoring in physical therapy or as a physical education teacher. And then maybe train kids when I’m older on the side.

I-B: When the coaching staff spoke with you, was there anything about your game that they really liked or really wanted you to work on? 

Sullivan: I know coach Quigley has always loved how hard of a worker I was, and she’s seen it in me since I was younger so she knew I would be an impact on the program in that way. She was just saying how she likes to recruit great players and people, so not just on the court but how they are off the court as well.

I-B: When was the first time coach Quigley saw you play? 

Probably as a freshman at open gym when she was the coach at Lewis [University, in Romeovillle].

I-B: Anything else we should know about your commitment or the upcoming season?

For the upcoming high school season, I’m excited because hopefully we’ll have playoffs and everything, and I would love to help lead Willowbrook to the most wins as possible, and maybe regional and even sectional titles.

Expected Illinois natives on the 2021-22 SIUE roster:

  • Redshirt junior Madison Hackstadt (Okawville native, Okawville graduate)
  • Grad Student Allie Troeckler (Bethalto native, Civic Memorial graduate)
  • Sophomore Caite Knutson (Maryville native, Collinsville graduate)
  • Senior Mikala Hall (Danville native, Danville graduate)
  • Freshman Tyler Butler (Belleville native, Belleville East graduate)

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