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Skyy Clark’s commitment leaves no doubt about Illinois’ future

BU has it good in Champaign.


The Skyy’s the limit! Illinois is Skyy-high!

The puns and plays on words are ready-made. Cheesy cliches aside, Fighting Illini fans should feel enthusiastic about Skyy Clark’s commitment Thursday afternoon.

The 5-star combo guard is the highest-rated signee in the history of the program. Clark decommitted from Kentucky to come to Illinois. And he did it on national television. He unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal his school of choice and it was delightful to see. This wasn’t a Cliff Alexander moment. This was an elite prep talent passing on an established basketball brand to help establish a new one.

This decision may prove to be the move that signals the Illinois’ re-emergence on the national recruiting scene. And if there was ever any doubt about Brad Underwood being able to reel in recruits, Skyy Clark has silenced that. BU landed Mark Smith, Illinois’ reigning Mr. Basketball, in 2017 — snicker if you wish, but at the time that was a very exciting signing. BU helped keep Ayo home. BU got Adam Miller, 2020’s Illinois Mr. Basketball, and Brandin Podziemski, Wisconsin’s 2021 Player of the Year, to join the program. BU re-recruited Kofi Cockburn to Illinois after declaring for the NBA Draft and entering the portal.

Luke Goode, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Andres Feliz, Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez are a few more recent examples of players who have bought in. Oh, and since we’re talking about “buying in,” let’s not omit Trent Frazier and Da’Monte Williams from that conversation, two highly-rated recruits who remained steadfast in their commitments to Illinois following John Groce’s firing. The Illini were certainly better for having Trent & DMW in the fold.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Fighting Illini have arguably recruited better since losing assistants Orlando Antigua, Chin Coleman and Stephen Gentry in the 2021 offseason. Hiring — or recruiting, if you will — Tim Anderson and Chester Frazier has led to the signings and commitments of Dain Dainja (transfer), Jayden Epps (4-star), Sencire Harris (4-star), Ty Rodgers (4-star), Morez Johnson (4-star), and now Skyy Clark.

Brad Underwood is building a model for success, and has cultivated a culture that makes Champaign a place where people want to be. He has a knack for developing relationships, which — in my opinion — means more than scheme or Xs and Os.

Only time will tell if Clark can live up to the hype. But many of the top prep players in the country are starting to see Champaign as a viable destination. And as long as Brad Underwood remains at Illinois, there should be no doubt about the team’s future.