EDGY's Eastern Illinois Panthers Grade: C
Eastern Illinois and head coach Kim Dameron were able to sign 20 names in the Panthers' 2017 class, including five Illinois high school players. Eastern Illinois was able to fill in some depth at multiple positions with offensive line being a slight focus. The Panthers have been hovering slightly about the overall winning mark for the past few seasons. Hopefully this class, along with a veteran roster back in 2017, will help EIU get toward the top of the Ohio Valley and back into the FCS playoffs.
Headliner Of The In-State Class?
Eastern Illinois was able to bring in some solid names here, but from an upside/down-the-line-potential I'm a big fan of Phillips offensive linemen Johari Branch (6-foot-3, 295 pounds). Branch has terrific size, quickness and length and was impressive at various one-day camps this past summer. Belleville Althoff wide receiver/defensive back Edwyn Brown (6-foot-5, 180 pounds) might be one of the more intriguing names in this class. Brown has great size and length and could develop down the line and into a potential steal.
The One Who Got Away?
Eastern Illinois offered two terrific in-state recruits in Rochester wide receiver Avante Cox along with Belleville Althoff wide receiver C.J. Coldon. Both Cox and Coldon wound up signing with Wyoming.
Final Thoughts on the Eastern Illinois Panthers Recruiting Class:
Eastern Illinois was able to go out and bring in some in-state names to its 2017 class who have a chance down the road to become contributors. I would love to see EIU hit the high school/in-state numbers a bit harder, including seeing a better overall percentage of in-state signings. Yet the Panthers have been winning games and use their out-of-state recruiting connections, FBS and FCS transfers and incoming freshman names well so far under Dameron.
Despite the various issues, the Panthers have been competitive and playing winning football. EIU was actually off to a strong start in 2016, going 5-2 with wins over Miami of Ohio and Illinois State. EIU lost three of its last four games to end the year 6-5. With a deep and veteran roster returning in 2017, plus a solid 2017 class just signed, look for EIU to again challenge for an FCS playoff spot in 2017.
UMBC may have stolen the most attention from the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but Loyola became the early talk of Saturday's games by advancing to the Sweet 16 with another dramatic finish.
It wasn't the pure exhilaration of Donte Ingram’s last-second game-winning 3-pointer in the first round win against Miami, but the Ramblers knocked off Tennessee 63-62 (a one-point difference from the 64-62 score against Miami) with another exciting finish.
This time it was Clayton Custer sinking a jumper, one that hit rim, then backboard and some more rim before going in, with 3.6 seconds left and the Ramblers surviving a last gasp three attempt by Jordan Bone to get the win.
“The ball bounced up on the rim and I got a good bounce like that,” Custer said of his game-winning shot. “The only thing I could think about after the game is that’s all the hard work that you put in to get in a situation like this. All those hours, waking up early in the morning and working out. For all that hard work to come up to that lucky bounce is worth it.”
Custer’s shot may not have been the cleanest looking, but teammate Ben Richardson said it’s nothing new.
“I’ve seen him make a 1-2 dribble pull-up probably a million times,” Richardson said. “I have so much faith in that shot just because I’ve seen him make it. When we’re just working out and stuff I see him make it at maybe a 98 percent clip so before games I’m always like ‘Get to that 1-2 pull-up, get to that 1-2 pull-up.’... It’s fitting that he hits a big shot going 1-2 pull-up, like we’ve been doing in the gym for our whole lives working on that shot.”
Loyola, an 11 seed, is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985. The Ramblers will face either Cincinnati or Nevada next, looking for a first trip to the Elite 8 since winning the national title in 1963. Oh, by the way, Loyola beat Cincinnati in the 1963 championship game.
It's no secret that Simeon routinely churns out some of the best basketball talent in the country. From Nick Anderson to Derrick Rose to Jabari Parker, the Wolverines are notorious for the impact their former student-athletes have at the collegiate and professional ranks.
Thursday, former Simeon stars Zach Norvell (Gonzaga) and Donte Ingram (Loyola) hit clutch shots to lead their respective schools to victory in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64.
Norvell, who graduated from Simeon in 2016, buried a go-ahead three with about 20 seconds remaining in No. 4 Gonzaga's 68-64 win over No. 13 UNC Greensboro.
Norvell, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, averaged 12.2 points in 26.1 minutes for Gonzaga this season. He finished with 15 points on 3-of-12 shooting (2-of-8 from three) in 34 minutes Thursday. He was ranked 83rd in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2016.
In the biggest upset of the day, Ingram and No. 11 Loyola knocked off No. 6 Miami 64-62. Ingram hit a three with less than a second remaining, securing Loyola's first NCAA tournament win since 1985.
Ingram is a 6-foot-6 guard/forward who graduated from Simeon in 2014. He averaged 11.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 30.7 minutes this season for Loyola.
Ingram finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 34 minutes for Loyola Thursday. He shot just 3-of-8 from distance, though one of those conversions obviously came at a perfect time for the Ramblers.
Norvell and Ingram both have Friday off before their respective schools are back in action Saturday. Norvell and Gonzaga will face-off against No. 5 Ohio State in Boise, while Ingram and Loyola will play No. 3 Tennessee in Dallas.