Preps Talk

Colleges now focusing on underclassmen in always-shifting recruiting calendar


Colleges now focusing on underclassmen in always-shifting recruiting calendar

Every year around this time college football recruiting comes out of its post-holiday hibernation, otherwise known as the dead period, and fires up again. The NCAA-mandated dead period came to an end Monday morning, and high schools across the state saw an influx of college coaches in their buildings on Tuesday.

Yet unlike other years, this recruiting period took on a new significance.

"College coaches at this time of the year are usually babysitting its verbally committed seniors and making sure that they are all set to sign in February," Phillips head coach Troy McAllister said. "Now with the early signing period in December, most of the FBS and FCS schools are all done recruiting the 2018 kids and are now going all in on underclassmen."

McAllister reported eight colleges — Dartmouth, Iowa State, Purdue, Penn State, Morgan State, Syracuse, South Dakota State and West Virginia — came though his school on Tuesday and saw more than a few Wildcat underclassmen land verbal scholarship offers.

"I had a junior (defensive back Fabian McCray), a sophomore (defensive back Ronald Pledger) and even a freshman (defensive tackle Dominick Bass) pick up scholarship offers yesterday," he said. "We are expecting more and more coaches to come into school this week. A few of the coaches came into check on the seniors but even they are starting to work on the next class. This has always been a busy time of the year with recruiting, but now college coaches want to move ahead and get after the younger kids earlier than ever."

"We've had several college coaches in school so far," Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow said. "And none of them have talked about any of the seniors. Zero. The game plan for them was to finish up the seniors in December and focus this month completely on the next class and that's exactly how it's gone."

Ivlow also feels that with the implementation of the early signing period, seniors now more than ever need to make a much quicker college decision or get left with far more limited college options.

"Kids who waited on the bigger level schools to offer them are still waiting, and it doesn't look promising. Kids are going to need to make a decision earlier and earlier otherwise they stand to lose out on some good college offers and options."

St. Charles North's Peyton Brown, Tyler Nubin ready for their time in the spotlight

St. Charles North's Peyton Brown, Tyler Nubin ready for their time in the spotlight

St. Charles North has been one of the more impressive on the rise IHSA football programs over the past four seasons, and the North Stars feature some big time names along with names to watch for the 2018 season. 

North Stars junior QB Peyton Brown (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) needed to sit and wait his turn last season, but Brown is already drawing serious recruiting attention and traction this early spring from several FBS and FCS schools. Brown is expected to draw plenty of college coaches at his upcoming spring workouts once the spring recruiting evaluation begins in mid April. 

While Peyton Brown is trying to gain more recruiting attention this spring, St. Charles North junior defensive back Tyler Nubin (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) is approaching 20 scholarship offers this early spring with his latest offer coming from Michigan. Nubin has also started to draw national recruiting attention and Nubin will also see his share of Power 5 college coaches in school this spring.

I had a chance to catch up with Peyton Brown and Tyler Nubin at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School.

2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

2018 NBC Sports Chicago Boys Basketball All-Area Team

The end of the IHSA boys basketball season means it's time to unveil the fifth annual NBC Sports Chicago All-Area team.

Unlike some other postseason awards, we wait until after the high school season has finished so that we can take postseason accomplishments into account. The three teams are broken up similar to the All-American teams you see at the college level: three teams of five players each. Only players from our main Chicagoland coverage area are considered.  


Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon senior guard (Player of the Year) -- The Player of the Year award was an easy choice as Horton-Tucker had the strongest season of any area player from start to finish. Although the Wolverines came up short of a Class 4A state title, they became a nationally-ranked powerhouse during the season thanks in large part to the emergence of Horton-Tucker as a go-to player. Putting up 23.0 points, nine rebounds, six assists and 2.1 blocks per game, Horton-Tucker was dominant at times on both ends of the floor. A back-to-back city champion and the A.C. Williamson award winner at Pontiac, Horton-Tucker seemed to elevate his play in the biggest of games. When the Wolverines played nationally-ranked teams this season, Horton-Tucker averaged 21 points per game. The 6-foot-5 Horton-Tucker is headed to Iowa State next season.

Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park senior guard -- The Illinois commit closed out a great IHSA career with a Class 3A state title with the Mustangs. Dosunmu would have been in serious contention for Player of the Year had he not missed a critical stretch of 10 games in the middle of the season. Dosunmu averaged 25.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game this year as he's been selected to participate in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic All-Star Game in New York. Dosunmu also had games of 60 and 52 points this season -- the area's only player with multiple 50-point outings. 

Javon Freeman, Whitney Young senior guard -- Starting this season as the talk of the town after some monster scoring games, Freeman and the Dolphins just missed winning back-to-back Class 4A state titles. The Valparaiso commit put up 19.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season as the 6-foot-4 Freeman was one of the area's most gifted offensive weapons. Also winning MVP of the Rockford Tip-Off Classic and making All-Tournament honors at Proviso West, Freeman also elevated his play in the biggest of games. 

Drew Peterson, Libertyville senior forward -- The uncommitted senior was the area's most consistent go-to scorer this season as Peterson put up 25.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. A lethal perimeter shooter at 38 percent from distance, Peterson was a matchup nightmare at the high school level because of his 6-foot-8 size on the perimeter. A North Suburban All-Conference selection, Peterson was held under 20 points only five times all season. Division I schools from all over the country have tracked Peterson's play this season as he will be a fascinating spring recruit.

Ryan Davis, Conant senior center -- The area's best big man this season, the 6-foot-9 Davis was a force on the interior for the Cougars. The Mid-Suburban League's Player of the Year averaged 24.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocked shots per game this season while facing double- and triple-teams in almost every game. Davis also shot an impressive 61 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line. The Vermont commit is Conant's all-time leader in wins while scoring 1,542 total points in his career. Davis was also MVP of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York -- leading the Cougars to the title there. 


Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South senior forward -- After a breakout campaign as a junior, Griffin became a star as a senior. The 6-foot-6 Iowa State commit averaged 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game this season while shooting 55 percent form the floor. An All-Tournament selection at Lyons and Jack Tosh (York), Griffin has as much upside as any player on this All-Area list. 

Camron Donatlan, West Aurora senior guard -- A three-sport star who is headed to Wyoming for football and track, the 6-foot-3 Donatlan finished out a stellar career on the hardwood this season. Helping the balanced Blackhawks to a Class 4A sectional title, Donatlan averaged 18.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor. The Upstate Eight Valley co-Player of the Year finished fourth in West Aurora history with over 1,500 points.

Morgan Taylor, Marist senior guard -- Marist had another great season as the 6-foot-3 Taylor's contributions were a huge reason why. Finishing with the single-season school scoring record, Taylor averaged 21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field. Taylor will go down in Marist history as the sixth leading scorer all time. 

Messiah Jones, Simeon senior forward -- One of the most active players in the area, the 6-foot-5 Jones was a double-double machine for the Wolverines this season. Putting up 17 points and nine rebounds per game, Jones was an All-Tournament selection at Pontiac while also garnering MVP honors at the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest. The Drake commit was often playing out of position by having to go in the post, but he always handled his assignment with productive games. 

Dannie Smith, Orr senior forward -- A two-time Class 2A state champion, Smith has been one of the area's best all-around players the past two seasons. As a senior, Smith shined by averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game for the Spartans while being named to the IBCA 1A/2A All-State first team. Smith was also critical in helping Orr capture the Proviso West Holiday Tournament while going undefeated in the loaded Public League Red North/West. The 6-foot-5 forward is uncommitted. 


Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep junior guard -- One of the area's most efficient offensive players, the 6-foot-4 Cowan had a strong junior season for the Rams. The All-Catholic League selection averaged 19.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Cowan was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane and Hinsdale Central. Another uncommitted prospect, Cowan has scholarship offers from local programs like DePaul, Loyola and UIC. 

D.J. Steward, Fenwick sophomore guard -- The state's top sophomore this season, the 6-foot-1 Steward was named the Catholic League's Player of the Year after helping the Friars to another conference title. Facing opposing defenses that were often geared to slow him down, Steward showed impressive poise for a sophomore this season. Putting up 18.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game, Steward was one of the best all-around players in the area. Steward remains uncommitted as high-major programs should be all over him during the spring and summer.

Damaria Franklin, Niles North senior wing -- A powerful 6-foot-3 wing who can score with the best of them, Franklin was one of the premier go-to guys in the area this season. Playing in the loaded CSL South, Franklin was an all-conference selection while averaging 17.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 assists per game as a senior. Capable of pumping in points from all three levels of the floor, Franklin is second in Niles North history with 1,508 points. The uncommitted Franklin was also an All-Tournament selection at DePaul/Lane, Wheeling and Lake Zurich this season. 

Raekwon Drake, Orr senior forward -- A back-to-back Class 2A state champion with the Spartans, Drake has been a known presence in the city the past four years. An elite athlete and one of the best dunkers in the city in recent memory, Drake averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a senior. Also named to the Associated Press Class 2A All-State first team, Drake was a dominant force in the state playoffs once again. The 6-foot-5 Drake is uncommitted.

Anthony Lynch, Larkin senior guard -- The Upstate Eight River Player of the Year this season, Lynch was a huge reason why the Royals made their first state appearance in school history. The 6-foot-3 guard was the catalyst behind Larkin's offense as he averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game before the state finals weekend. Lynch and Larkin senior big man Jalen Shaw formed one of the area's best inside-outside combinations. Lynch is uncommitted.