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Illini Hoops Recruiting Spotlight: Anthony Walker

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The four-star forward will be in Champaign this week.

Anthony Walker Twitter (@AntgotClout)

The basketball team finally has official visits to use again!

It has been a quiet summer on the recruiting front for Illinois Basketball. After all, they were still wrapping up their 2018 class. All eyes now turn to the currently empty 2019 class. Underwood’s top target, Kahlil Whitney, is already off the board to Coach Cal, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Football season is already underway, and for basketball fans, that means official visit season is upon us. We will try and highlight the official visitors leading up to their scheduled OVs.

This week the staff will host 4-star forward Anthony Walker in what is the first official visit of the athletic year.

The Facts

Walker is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward attending the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He is a consensus four-star recruit and ranked in the top 150 by both Rivals (#95) and 247 (#146).

Walker cut his list last week and the Illini were included in the final eight schools.

He’s also set up his visit schedule, which is always subject to change. But for now, it looks like this:

  • Illinois (Sept. 5)
  • Pitt (Sept. 14)
  • Rhode Island (Sept. 21)
  • Kansas (Sept. 28, unofficial)
  • Miami (Oct. 5)
  • VCU (Oct. 19)

The Illini are getting the first visit. You can spin it whatever way you please. The first visit could mean the Illini are the leader, or the recruit wants to use Illinois as a benchmark to get the taste of an official before he moves on to his serious contenders. Or it could mean nothing. Because this is recruiting.

According to his Twitter, he took a visit to Pitt and received an offer on Aug. 24, shortly before he cut his list. New head coach Jeff Capel is the strongest recruiter of the remaining contenders if you throw out Kansas.

The Player

There is a theme with Underwood recruits: Length.

I can’t find his wingspan anywhere, but Walker has arms for days and has the athleticism Underwood wants out of his frontcourt players. At 205 pounds — some places have him listed at 180 — Walker has a lot to work on with his body. With that said, he has the frame of a high-major player. Fletch would have a field day with Walker, and by his sophomore or junior year he could be an absolute force.

Here’s the most recent highlight tape of Walker:

Did you notice he likes to dunk? The kid is a human highlight reel. His length and athleticism make him a great target for alley-oops. This is a football term, but he has great “go up and get it” ability. He’s a great athlete who could be on the receiving end of a lot of alley-oops from a talented Illini backcourt.

Right now his long arms allow him to make up for any disadvantage in positioning. In order to be a good rebounder at the next level he’ll need to get much stronger, but the potential is there.

I’d like to see more tape on the defensive end of the floor and get a better read on his rim protection instincts. He certainly has the length to block shots and overpower the high school competition. Overall, his length and athleticism provide tremendous defensive upside, something the staff is desparate for after one year on the job.

He made a few outside jumpshots in the highlight. I’m not sure what his percentages look like, but he looks to have a pretty smooth stroke for a big. If he’s not a plus shooter already he certainly has the potential to be. At 6-foot-8, he has pretty good feet and looks relatively comfortable with the ball in his hands. His offensive skillset seems to be superior to those of a comparable height and build. Strength, rebounding and defense will be the hurdles he faces as a young college player.

I don’t love comparisons, and this is high praise, but I get a modern day (better shooting) Mike Davis vibe from his game.

The Fit

Walker is the kind of player Illinois hasn’t had in a while.

We haven’t seen Anthony Higgs suit up yet, but Walker is being recruited to play a similar role that Higgs will be asked to play. Walker appears to have more offensive upside and versatility to his game at this point.

Even at a mere 200 pounds, he could come in and play minutes at power forward right away. That’s because this year Kipper Nichols is going to be shoehorned into playing power forward. The problem is, while Kipper is a talented, versatile wing, he lacks the length and explosiveness that Underwood really wants and needs at the four to compete with his system in the Big Ten.

Walker can also play the five if the Illini want to go “small” and play some bigger wings like Nichols or Tevian Jones at the three and four.

His responsibilities early on will be getting rebounds, blocking shots, running the floor and finishing from six feet and in, primarly from lob entry passes and outback opportunities. If he can master those responsibilites, he will have an opportunity to develop his offensive game. That may not be until later in his career, but he could develop into the leading frontcourt scorer on a Brad Underwood team.

Walker would be a great get for Illinois. Everything outlined above is simply where he stands at this moment before he has stepped on a college campus. He already would help fill a lot of holes that the Illini have on their roster, and he is only going to get better. He has the frame a lot of scouts drool over, and if he can just marginally improve his offensive skillset, he can be a real offensive weapon.

He needs to get stronger, and I wonder how much of an impact he can make on the defensive end right away, but the potential is there to become a high-level defender.

Underwood would be ecstatic to secure a commitment from him this week, but — and I know literally nothing — I wouldn’t bet on it. He has five more visits scheduled, including an unofficial to Kansas, so I think he’s going to want to see that through.

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