High School: Basketball Recruiting

Curie's Alexander doesn't wait, signs with Kansas

November, 16, 2013
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Chicago Curie senior power forward Cliff Alexander signed and faxed his letter of intent to Kansas on Saturday, according to a source.

Alexander, ESPN’s No. 3-ranked senior prospect, verbally committed to the Jayhawks over DePaul, Illinois and Memphis on ESPNU on Friday, but he said he likely wouldn’t sign with the school until January.

Alexander said Friday that his decision came down to Kansas coach Bill Self and his ability to develop big men.

“It was really tough, really tough,” Alexander said of his decision. “Me and my family did a lot of talking, a lot of thinking. We came down to a conclusion. Coach Self is a great guy. He develops players. I like how he coaches. I like how he gets the ball to the bigs, develop the bigs.”

Alexander joined forward Kelly Oubre, who is ranked No. 10 by ESPN, in Kansas’ recruiting class. Oubre has also signed his letter of intent.

No. 3 Cliff Alexander Commits to Kansas

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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Cliff Alexander, the top-ranked power forward in the ESPN 100, committed Friday to the Jayhawks. Alexander chose Kansas over hometown Illinois.

Simeon's Williams commits to Illinois

November, 5, 2013
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Chicago Simeon junior forward D.J. Williams committed to Illinois on Tuesday.

Williams, a 6-foot-7, 203-pound small forward, chose the Illini over DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Providence, Purdue and Southern Methodist.

“From my first time on campus, I was just thinking it was the right move,” Williams said by phone on Tuesday morning. “I’ve liked [Illinois] coach [John] Groce on and off the court. It’s also close to my home. My family can watch me play. The Big Ten is also one of the best conferences in the country."

Williams is ranked No. 28 in ESPN’s Class of 2015 and is the highest-ranked recruit Groce has landed since being hired in March of 2012. Illinois has two top-50 recruits committed in the Class of 2014 and signed two top-100 recruits in the Class of 2013.

ESPN recruiting nation scout/analyst Reggie Rankin thought Williams could be an impact player in the Big Ten and was another significant recruit for the Illini.

“I think he’s a wing player that can score,” Rankin said. “He’s got great length. He’s got a terrific mid-range game. He’s active and he’s got tremendous upside. He’ll be an excellent wing scorer in the Big Ten. That’s a tremendous get for them, especially from another instate, Chicago high school power.

“I think that now Groce has been there a year and he’s more established that these things are going to happen more consistently. It may not be a steady stream, but I think he’ll be able to get high-level underclassmen early because they’re established there as a team and are doing well and are projected to do well. They also have an excellent class in play in 2014. I think it’s part of Groce and his staff being more established and working their home turf, which is a tremendous recruiting ground for them.”

Williams was optimistic he could attract other top players from his class and help build Illinois into a NCAA tournament championship contender.

“I can now start recruiting for the other players to kind of join me,” Williams said. “Illinois is rolling really good. With the players they have coming in and more from my year, I think we can make a big run in the NCAA tournament.”

Williams is the third player from Simeon to commit to Groce. He previously signed shooting guard Kendrick Nunn and point guard Jaylon Tate from Simeon. Both are expected to play for the Illini as freshmen this season.

Simeon coach Robert Smith said he was proud to send players to Illinois.

“It’s one thing [former Simeon coach Bob] Hambric talked to me about when I was younger, about keeping guys at home is always big for Simeon, Illinois and the state,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. Our basketball is too good in the state to have everyone leave for other schools. That’s my drive to let other people and coaches know to try to keep our guys home. It’s not for everyone. It’s best for some players to go to Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina because it doesn’t fit here, but we should try to make our basketball rich and good in Illinois.”

Williams has made a number of unofficial visits to Illinois during the past few years. His most recent visit came during Illinois’ homecoming on Oct. 26.

Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham was the lead recruiter on Williams.

Illinois is also among the final four schools for Chicago Curie senior forward Cliff Alexander, who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2014 by ESPN. He will announce between DePaul, Illinois, Kansas and Memphis on ESPNU on Nov. 15.

“Williams’ commitment certainly can’t hurt with Alexander,” Rankin said. “It shows another Chicago high-level player has earned their trust to go to Illinois.”

Williams is Illinois’ first Class of 2015 recruit.

Four schools with best shot at Okafor

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Chicago Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor, ESPN’s top-ranked senior, hasn’t officially cut his list to four schools, but Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky have the best chance of landing him, Okafor’s father said on Sunday.

Jahlil Okafor told Scout.com on Saturday he had narrowed his choices to Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky, but Chukwudi Okafor, Jahlil's father, said the list wasn’t official.

“We haven’t officially cut the list,” Chukwudi said in a phone interview on Sunday. “Those four schools have the best chance. Anything can still happen.”

Okafor participated in USA Basketball’s national team developmental training camp in Colorado on Saturday and Sunday. Chukwudi said he and his son would discuss his recruiting when Okafor returns to Chicago.

In late May, Okafor released a list of eight schools he was considering. The list included Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Okafor has said he’d like to attend the same school as Apple Valley (Minnesota) point guard Tyus Jones, who is ranked No. 4 by ESPN. Jones and Okafor have planned official visits to Duke and Kansas together later this month. They previously visited Baylor together.

Alexander cuts Kentucky, adds UConn, Oregon

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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NORRIDGE, Ill. -- Chicago Curie senior power forward Cliff Alexander, ESPN’s No. 2-ranked prospect, said Sunday he has eliminated Kentucky from his list of schools.

“They just stopped communicating with me,” said Alexander during the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam at Ridgewood High School on Sunday. “It’s surprising. I haven’t talked to [Kentucky coach John Calipari] in I don’t know how long. I’m somewhat [disappointed,] but hey it’s a business. You do what you have to do.”

Alexander, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward, said all the other schools he named in a top-10 list in June are still in play. His list included Arizona, Baylor, DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville, Memphis and Michigan State.

Alexander said he’s considering Connecticut and Oregon because they are also recruiting Huntington Prep senior point guard JaQuan Lyle, who is ranked No. 22 by ESPN. Alexander and Lyle have recently discussed attending the same school. Lyle recently decommitted from Louisville.

Alexander has made official visits to Arizona and DePaul. He will also make official visits to Kansas on Oct. 4, Memphis on Oct. 18 and Illinois on Oct. 26. He said he might take an unofficial visit to Michigan State.

Alexander said he expects to commit in mid-December and sign his letter of intent in the spring.

Alexander said DePaul and Illinois are among his finalists because he’s interested in playing in state and in the direction the programs are headed.

DePaul’s recent recruiting efforts in Chicago have helped their standing with Alexander. He said he’d like to play with former Chicago Public League players Billy Garrett, Tommy Hamilton, Rashaun Stimage and Myke Henry.

“I love [DePaul] coach Oliver Purnell,” Alexander said. “He’s a great guy. He’s built a great relationship with my mom. We had a fun time. I’m really considering them. It helps a lot playing with Tommy, Myke, Billy and Rashaun. I know those guys.”

Alexander said he also feel comfortable with the Illini’s coaching staff and players.

“Coach [John] Groce since he got the job, he’s been communicating with me well,” Alexander said. “My mom loves him, that whole coaching staff. I’ve been down there a few times and just hanging with the guy.
Marian Catholic senior point guard Tyler Ulis named Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State and USC as his four finalists on Thursday, according to his father.

Ulis, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Matteson, Ill., is ranked No. 38 overall and the No. 8 point guard in the Class of 2014 by ESPN. He eliminated DePaul, Florida State, Northwestern and Purdue from the schools he was considering.

[+] EnlargeTyler Ulis
AP Photo/Damen Jackson/Triple Play New Media

DePaul, Florida State, Northwestern and Purdue are out for point guard Tyler Ulis, who has narrowed his prospective college choices to Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State and USC.

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Ulis’ father, James Ulis, said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “He always felt like he could play at this level. It’s nice for him to be rewarded and people can see it.”

Ulis holds offers from Iowa, Michigan State and USC, but not from Kentucky. James said Kentucky coach John Calipari has expressed interest in Ulis and believes an offer could be coming.

“There’s mutual interest,” James said. “We’ve had the opportunity to talk to Coach Calipari, and they basically said Tyler is a great point guard, great leader and they would love to give him an opportunity to run their program. Coach Cal wants to get to know Tyler and us to get to know him.”

Kentucky made the list because of its recent successes, James Ulis said.

“John Calipari has produced the most point guards in recent years and has taken them right to the NBA,” he said. “He obviously knows how to coach point guards. He knows how to put them in positions to lead the team. He’s a tough coach. There’s accountability from Day 1 to win and win at a high level.”

While Kentucky is the newest suitor of Ulis, Iowa has been on him the longest.

“What I love about [Iowa coach Fran McCaffery] is from the beginning he clearly stated Tyler was the point guard to lead his team,” James said. “What is being said about Ty now is what Fran said about him last year. We also like the offense that Fran runs, and Fran is just a great guy. Tyler will get an opportunity to play the style he wants to play.”

Style also factored in Ulis’ decision to keep USC on his list. Ulis was attracted by the fast-paced game USC coach Andy Enfield used while previously at Florida Gulf Coast.

“Tyler really loves his offense, that open style of game -- pass, run-and-gun and open space,” James said. “They get up and down the court. They get after it. He’s coached in the NBA and obviously has some shooting videos out. He’s a great shooting coach. I think for Ty to go to the next level he has to knock down the 3 consistently.”

Michigan State also made the cut for a variety of reasons.

“Michigan State, obviously the tradition at point guard; I’m a big Magic Johnson fan,” James said. “They’ve won. They’re had success. You want your kid to play for Coach [Tom] Izzo. They always get some really good players. Obviously the family tie, [Tyler’s cousin] Travis Walton played there.”

James said no in-state schools made his son’s final list because the other schools were better fits. DePaul and Northwestern had been recruiting Ulis, and his family created relationships with DePaul coach Oliver Purnell and Northwestern coach Chris Collins. The family also recently heard from Illinois, but James said it was too late in the process to consider Illinois.

“Illinois recently reached out to us concerning Tyler,” James said. “It would be tough to go that direction because they were going another direction before. We respect that. I didn’t know the reason they hadn’t approached Tyler [previously]. We were told they weren’t going to recruit another point guard in 2014. Once Tyler did what he did [on the club travel scene], Coach [John] Groce reached out.”

James said his son plans to set up official visits in September and decide on a school before the early signing period in November.

Top-100 recruit Law commits to N'western

July, 4, 2013
7/04/13
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Chicago St. Rita senior forward Vic Law committed to Northwestern coach Chris Collins on Thursday and became the highest-ranked recruit in the program’s history.

Law, a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward, chose Northwestern over Dayton, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Stanford and VCU. He is ranked No. 66 by ESPN in the Class of 2014.

“There’s nothing like being No. 1,” Law said of becoming the first top-100 recruit ever to commit to Northwestern. “Knowing that, I really believe in coach Collins. I think [Northwestern] can go to the [NCAA tournament] this year. I think the sky’s the limit for them and they can only go up. I really believe in coach Collins. I just think he has a great basketball mind.”

St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare, a former Division I assistant coach, thinks Law and Northwestern are perfect for each other.

“I think it’s an all-around fit for everyone,” DeCesare said. “As far as Vic playing, his greatest characteristic is his versatility. He’s a very skilled wing with great size. He has an ability to knock down shots and create shots. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions, which is a huge plus.

“He’s been a three-year starter for me. Every year, he’s gotten better and better. There aren’t too many guys who are 6-8 and can knock down the deep 3 and get to the rim and finish. If he puts his mind to it, he can be one of the best players in the state.”

Law believes he is just the start for Northwestern in attracting top-100 players.

“I’m going to bring in some guys with me,” Law said. “I’m not worried about it. Being No. 1 means nothing until there’s No. 2.”

Law averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last season for St. Rita of the Chicago Catholic League.

Northwestern assistant coach Armon Gates was the lead recruiter on Law.

Collins was hired in late March to replace Bill Carmody, who was fired after 13 seasons. Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament.

Law is Northwestern’s first Class of 2014 recruit.

Morgan Park's Taylor commits to Bradley

May, 12, 2013
5/12/13
2:58
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Morgan Park senior forward Xzavier Taylor committed to Bradley on Sunday, according to his club coach.

Taylor, a 6-foot-9 power forward, chose the Braves over Kansas State and Wake Forest, among others. He is ranked the No. 63 power forward in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.

Taylor averaged 8.5 points while helping Morgan Park to an Illinois Class 3A state title last season. He had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the Mustangs’ state championship win.

“We think Xzavier is only going to get better,” Mac Irvin Fire coach Mike Irvin said. “He was a big important piece on that state championship run for Morgan Park. He had to match up with some of the city and state’s best big men. We think him going to Bradley definitely is a good sign for them."

Bradley assistant coach Ronald Coleman was the lead recruiter on Taylor.

Taylor is the sixth player in Bradley’s 2013 recruit class. He joins high school seniors Jordan Swopshire and Stefan Zecevic, junior college players Chris Blake and Auston Barnes and transfer Mike Shaw, who previous played at Illinois.

Final 2013 ESPN 100 player rankings

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
12:34
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Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle remain on top of the final ESPN 100 for the Class of 2013.

See the final rankings here.

BlueChipBattles: Hoops, April 25 edition

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
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Allerik FreemanCourtesy of Andrew Shurtleff

With word that shooting guard Allerik Freeman has asked for his release from UCLA, the nation’s No. 65 senior prospect may soon join Andrew Wiggins as the only uncommitted ESPN 100 prospects. Also, coaches begin to put in serious face time with the nation’s top junior recruits.

Read the entire story here.
Senior guard Alvin Ellis, of Chicago's De La Salle High School, committed and signed his letter of intent to the Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday.

Ellis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, was previously signed with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He averaged 20 points, six rebounds and four rebounds for De La Salle in the Chicago Catholic League this past season.

MeanStreets AAU coach Tai Streets, Ellis’ club coach, thought Ellis would excel at Michigan State under Spartans coach Tom Izzo.

“I love Izzo though I’m a Michigan alum,” said Streets, who played football at Michigan. “That’s my guy. I know I’m going to get into trouble for that, but it’s true. If it’s not Michigan, you can’t go wrong with Izzo.

“I think it’s a great fit for Alvin. First of all, he’s a hard worker. He’s in the gym every day. His shot has improved. His ball handling has improved. Everything has improved. He’s going to be great at Michigan State. I think it’s a steal.”

Izzo, who missed out on fellow Chicago recruit Jabari Parker earlier this year, also spoke highly of Ellis in a statement.

“Alvin will be a great addition to our backcourt,” Izzo said. “We like his offensive skill set, especially his shooting touch, hitting 40 percent from three each of the last two seasons. He has good length and versatility, with the ability to defend a couple different positions on the perimeter. Combine his great work ethic, his great family background and his commitment to academics, and I expect him to be the type of player that really develops during his time as a Spartan, enjoying the complete student-athlete experience.”

Ellis joins his former high school teammate Gavin Schilling in Michigan State’s 2013 recruiting class. Ellis and Schilling were teammates at De La Salle during their junior seasons. Schilling spent his senior season at Findlay Prep in Nevada.

Jabari Parker ends prep career to big cheers

April, 4, 2013
4/04/13
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CHICAGO -- Jabari Parker threw down a baseline dunk. He dished out a few assists. He grabbed a few rebounds. He made a few steals and blocked a few shots.

On the court Wednesday, Parker was being Parker as he displayed his all-around game and showed why he’s been considered one of the premier high school players in the country for much of his career.

But when Parker and most people think back of his McDonald’s All American Game experience, what they’ll remember isn’t Parker’s West team winning 110-99 or anything he did during the actual game. It’ll be the memory of his introduction before the game at the United Center.

[+] EnlargeJabari Parker
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWednesday's McDonald's All-American Game at the United Center was a homecoming of sorts for Chicago's Jabari Parker, who said he wanted to "represent the city of Chicago on the way."
With the lights out and the spotlight on and after every other player already on the floor, Parker was announced as being from Simeon Career Academy and Chicago. The welcoming decibels were well beyond those of anyone before him.

It was the perfect reception for the hometown Duke commit Parker, a four-time state champion and two-time Mr. Basketball who is No. 2 in the ESPN 100 ranking index.

“It was like homecoming,” Parker explained after the game. “It’s just a homecoming day for me, see everybody out there. You know we can celebrate. I know I represent all the high school players, so that’s all I wanted to do. Be there and represent the city of Chicago on the way.”

Whitney Young High School junior center and fellow Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 junior, was just as moved by the fans’ love for Parker.

“Seeing the crowd embrace him as they did, he deserves it more than anybody,” Okafor said. “Seeing everybody cheer that loud, I was really happy and just put like chills down my body. It’s something I can work hard for and maybe I can experience that next year.”

It was nearly the same feeling for Ronnie Fields, a former McDonald’s All American from Chicago, who was attending his first McDonald’s game in nearly 20 years.

“I was so happy,” said Fields, who was a McDonald’s All American in 1996. “I was waiting for him to come out.”

“To see the city continue to breed these guys out, it just made me proud,” he said. “You go down the list. We got Jabari. We got Derrick Rose. We got Okafor coming. That goes back to Isiah Thomas. The list goes on and on.”

Parker was thought to be playing his final game in Chicago for the foreseeable future, but he hinted at another game, possibly meaning a Duke game in Chicago next season. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski did bring Jon Scheyer back to play before his hometown Chicago crowd, and that also could be the case for Parker, who is expected to spend just one season in college before bolting for the NBA.

Whether or not Parker will be back in Chicago next year, he left a bit of everything on the floor Wednesday. He had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks; didn’t allow anything easy to No. 1-ranked Andrew Wiggins (uncommitted; from Canada by way Huntington Prep in West Virginia); and came out on the victorious side, just as he did throughout his career.
All in all, Parker realized his hometown experience was unique at this game.

“I know I’ve been spoiled a little bit more being in Chicago and playing at the United Center,” Parker said. “This was a great experience.”

McDonald's matchups to watch

April, 2, 2013
4/02/13
11:21
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In an all-star showcase, which team wins the game is often secondary. But which players win their individual matchups -- now that's another story. So to get you prepped for the McDonald's All American Game (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU and WatchESPN), we've ranked the top five matchups to watch during the contest.

With bragging rights and sometimes rankings on the line, you can bet these high-level one-on-one battles will be intense and will provide must-see TV. Here's what you need to know.

Read the entire story. Insider

Biancardi's Breakdown: Jabari Parker

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
10:41
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Now that No. 2 senior prospect Jabari Parker is back to full health, has his college decision behind him and is chasing a fourth consecutive state title, Paul Biancardi re-examines what makes Parker such a unique and talented player as his high school career winds to a close and why he’ll be able to make an immediate impact at Duke next year.

Read the entire story here.

Telep: Cleaning out the notebook (Insider)

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
11:41
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Dave Telep’s Friday recruiting notebook includes an introduction to one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen, a look at Indiana’s big recruiting weekend, why John Calipari’s words resonated with the nation’s No. 2 junior, Illinois putting in work on the recruiting trail and more.

Read the entire story here.

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