It’s really strange following nonrevenue sports from afar, particularly on a National Signing Day. Following men’s basketball and football, you know exactly who will be signing and approximately how good each player signing is supposed to be. With other sports, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Generally, you don’t know who’s signing and if they’re any good.
Luckily, there’s so much information available for tennis players at every single level, so it’s possible to get a decent idea of who’s coming in and how they fit in the program.
Gabrielius Guzuaskas – Hinsdale/Laurel Springs
Only one recruit for Coach Brad Dancer, but boy, is he a good one, both in terms of name and game. He’s ranked as the #4 recruit in the class of 2021 by tennisrecruiting.net. The top 2 recruits in the class are UCF recruit JC Roddick, Andy’s nephew, and Aidan Mayo, former Illini Keenan Mayo’s brother.
Here are the only free highlights of Guzuaskas on the internet. It’s of him getting stomped in the finals of the 2019 Orange Bowl.
Having highlights of him getting blown out doesn’t inspire much confidence, but considering the Orange Bowl is a very prestigious tournament, just getting to the finals means you have to be pretty good.
Really, the question is if he can bring a different style of play to Atkins. Outside of Alex Brown and possibly Kweisi Kenyatte, the Illini have a roster full of players that are content with sitting at the baseline and hitting it back and forth with their opponent. They don’t have many people who can hit the cover off the ball. I can’t imagine Guzuaskas will be like that considering he’s only 6’2”, but he does have a lanky build that would produce some power while also allowing him to be agile. This bodes very well for his future and very much explains why he’s the #4 recruit in the 2021 class.
Kathryn “Kasia” Treiber – Hinsdale/Hinsdale Central
Megan Heuser – Lindenhurst/Lakes
Kida Ferrari – Fairhope, AL/Laurel Springs
Tennis recruiting is strange. Each year, there’s approximately a billion 5-star recruits, but then on top of those 5-stars, there’s about 30 blue-chip prospects. At worst, blue chips are going to be depth pieces, but superstars are likely to be blue-chip prospects (like Asuka Kawaii). Five-stars, due to their sheer number, are probably going to be depth pieces. That’s not to say they can’t be All-American quality (Aleks Kovacevic was a 5-star prospect). Currently, Illini women’s tennis has 3 blue chips on the roster (Kawaii, Ashley Yeah, and Katherine Duong). The rest of the team is all 5-stars. Do I think the blue chips are the three best players on the team? No, Josie Frazier has the highest ceiling of any Illini, and Emilee Duong (no relation to Katherine as far as I can tell) is the best player on the team when she’s on (huge caveat, I know).
This is all to give some perspective on a class that’s all 5-stars. Am I expecting each of them to be All-Americans? No. Would I be surprised if one of them ends up being a world-beater? A little, but not too much.
Also, only one blue-chip prospect committed to a B1G school (Ohio State), and Illinois out-recruited Northwestern, particularly in the state. So yeah, this is a pretty good class.
We’ll go up the list. Kida Ferrari is the top recruit out of Alabama and currently the #86 recruit in the nation, although she has been up in the 50s before. She has an excellent name (I absolutely will be calling anybody watching her matches the Tifosi) and a Youtube channel dedicated to herself. Here’s a taste:
It’s tough to make a head or tail out of cherry-picked clips. The thing I did notice: she has a very compact backhand that she can spray anywhere around the court without telegraphing it. That’s a very nice tool to have.
Megan Heuser is the #3 recruit out of Illinois and has made it up to a #36 ranking in the nation (she’s currently unranked but still a 5-star? I don’t know, tennis recruiting is weird). She’s the current 1A state tennis champion, winning the tournament in dominant fashion. In 8 matches, she lost a total of 9 GAMES.
She has no videos in the internet, so I have no scouting report to give you whatsoever. She seems pretty good, and it’s always good to keep in-state talent at home.
Kathryn “Kasia” Treiber is the #2 recruit out of Illinois (the top recruit is heading to Duke) and is currently #30 in the national recruiting rankings. Again, no video so no scouting report, but she is right on the cusp of being a blue-chip recruit. If I had to put money on any of these 3 becoming an All-American, I’d choose Treiber based on that ranking. Ho-hum, just another good prospect that’s staying in-state.
All in all, it’s another solid class that Evan Clark is bringing to Urbana. He has 3 more building blocks for what’s becoming one of the strongest programs at Illinois.