Talen Horton-Tucker chose Iowa State last week and, to be completely honest, I’m done talking about it for the time being. I think that we covered quite a bit from our previous articles, I hope you got your fill. Without further adieu, let’s shift our focus to the 2019 class. I won’t be making predictions on any of these kids as it’s generally too early to tell with any of these guys.
Francis Okoro: (Normal Community West) 6-foot-9 Center
Illinois offered Okoro back in July when it seemed like the staff was handing out offers every few days. Okoro is a true five with a big physical frame and he wields it well. Okoro has been highly sought after by some of the biggest blue blood programs around the country.
As we know, Brad Underwood and his assistants are not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the titans of college basketball. I respect that, and this recruitment will be no different. Okoro had an unofficial visit with the Illini and, by all accounts, it sounds like it went as well as an unofficial visit can.
Okoro sounds like a kid that is going to handle his recruitment the right way. He’s a smart kid from a good family. People around the Bloomington area who know his family say the same things. Okoro would bring the one thing this team needs to become a legitimate deep tournament contender: front-court depth. Many early rankings have Okoro as the top player in Illinois, and for good reason. He would be a huge addition to this team, we will be monitoring this recruitment closely going forward.
E.J. Lidell: (Belleville West) 6-Foot-7 Power Forward
I watched Lidell play the same way I watched THT for the first time. AAU tapes are all over the internet if you care to watch, and I would recommend giving Lidell a look. E.J. has a tough, bruising style of play, and he is an absolute monster on the glass. He reminds me a lot of a current Illini big man Leron Black.
Where I differentiate between the two is Leron has a better shooting stroke, but Lidell plays a little smarter, which means less fouling. There were rumors going around that we could see a commitment from him to Illinois early on. I’m talking a commitment before the summer, early on. Take that with a grain of salt, it’s all hearsay at this point. With a kid this good down in the St. Louis area we all know we will be fighting Cuonzo tooth-and-nail in this recruitment. Take the rumors of an early commit as an encouraging sign, though Illini fans, at the very least it means he is VERY interested. At the very least we are in a good position with Lidell.
D.J. Carton: (Bettendorf) 6-foot-1 Point Guard
Another point guard?! That’s right, Underwood is a wild-man, and he wants a full roster of lead guards and nothing else. Ok, that may be too far, but the Illinois staff is really high on Carton though. I can see why — Carton is a fast athletic guard that can distribute, drive to the bucket, and even has a nice jumper to boot. Carton is a heck of a defender as well. The downside to Carton is Wisconsin is in deep with him. This staff will likely be asking itself if it is worth the time and resources to pursue another lead guard when there are much larger needs to fill in this class.
Kahlil Whitney: (Roselle Catholic) 6-foot-6 Small Forward
Kahlil is a guy that picked up an Illini offer fairly recently and cut his list down already. Whitney is an ideal candidate for Brad Underwood’s position-less system. He has good size at 6-foot-6, but Adam Fletcher would likely need to add some size to him as he is kind of a wiry kid. That flex/wing position is a huge need on this team.
I believe Whitney cuts his list down to around 12 schools. Illinois will have to beat the likes of Jim Boeheim and Bill Self for Kahlil. This is where keeping ties strong with the Mac Irvin Fire pays dividends for this Illini staff. We played the game with Nick Irvin and hopefully that gives this staff a good “in” with this recruitment.
Adam Miller: (Morgan Park 2020) 6-Foot-3 Point Guard
If the Mac Irvin fire is your “in” for Kahlil Whitney, it’s certainly your “in” for Adam Miller. Everything that other reporters and journalists have had to say about Miller have sounded really positive. It sounds like Miller loves the program and this coaching staff.
Miller was there for the Dosunmu commitment, and the two have quite the relationship. That relationship is going to be key for this staff to build off of going forward. That relationship is clearly documented by the two players’ Twitter conversations.
A source informed me on Miller that from conversations with Miller’s dad that he is “about 90 percent” on Miller coming to Illinois. That’s pretty confident for a kid who won’t touch the court for a college program for three years. It sounds like Adam’s dad really wants to see him stay in-state. From what we’ve seen in previous recruitments, that carries a lot of weight.