Preps Talk

Illinois prospects sign Letters of Intent despite unusual Signing Day circumstances

Illinois prospects sign Letters of Intent despite unusual Signing Day circumstances

This year's National Signing Day was most unusual in recent memory.

With college basketball embroiled in FBI investigations and federal indictments for bribery and corruption involving recruiting and steering players towards financial advisors, many of the nation's elite basketball prospects remained uncommitted or opted not to sign the binding National Letter of Intent.

Those potential issues didn't seem to bother the Illinois high school senior class on Wednesday as the top players in the Chicagoland area signed their LOIs without any issues.

Morgan Park senior guard Ayo Dosunmu, regarded as the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball in Illinois this season, signed with the in-state Illini in his school's auditorium Wednesday afternoon along with fellow Mustangs Tamell Pearson (UAB) and Kenyon Duling (Tennessee State).

While Illinois and head coach Brad Underwood have not been directly mentioned in any of the FBI's uncoverings — which has led to eight federal indictments so far — there have been some questions about Underwood's potential involvement with his former assistant coach at Oklahoma State last season. Cowboys assistant coach Lamont Evans was one of four college assistants indicted on multiple federal charges earlier this week as he's accused of bribery and wire-tap charges pertaining to recruiting and guiding players towards certain financial advisors.

Despite lingering questions — Underwood's name has been included on some "hot seat" lists by national college basketball writers this fall because of the looming uncertainty — Dosunmu and his family felt there were no issues and that Illinois and Underwood had no involvement in any of the recent chaos.

"It was no thought (not to sign with Illinois)," Dosunmu's father, Quam, told NBC Sports Chicago. "We did our homework. Everyone did their homework. There was nothing involved with all of that. We went forward and the situation is fine. There were no thoughts [about not signing]."

The odd circumstances surrounding Signing Day might have made for a unique day across college basketball, but just like many of the kids who actually did sign the LOI, Ayo Dosunmu is happy to have it over with.

"It feels great knowing that I'm going to a school that I love and want to play for," Ayo said of his decision. "I can put on for my home state and all of my family and friends can come to the games and just watch me go as hard as I can."

One of the biggest in-state recruits for Illinois over the last decade, Dosunmu wants to try to attend all of Illinois' big conference games this season as he tries to build a bond with his future teammates. Dosunmu is also hoping to help the Illini and Underwood recruit some more help to Champaign for next season.

"I talked to Coach Underwood today and we just said we're going to try to get a shooter and try to recruit a big man," Dosunmu said. "And whatever shooter and big man they name, I'm going to try to get in contact with them and recruit them."

Dosunmu was the star attraction of Morgan Park's festivities but the 6-foot-10 Pearson also signed with UAB while the 6-foot-2 Duling is headed to Tennessee State.

The day was special for Pearson because he's watched Morgan Park teammates from the past few years also go through this same process as he was finally able to have his own special day. Pearson is comfortable with the Dragons as he feels like they're a program that can help him reach the next level.

"This day means a lot of me because I remember two years ago when Charlie Moore was here and Jarrin Randall was here," Pearson said. "I told myself I was going to be in their position and sign with a school and go [to college] for free. So it means a lot to me."

Duling was pleased to sign with the Tigers so he can focus on his senior season and help Morgan Park maximize its full potential. The Mustangs will once again find themselves among the top teams in the Preps Power Rankings this preseason.

"It feels good to put that behind me," Duling said. "Now I can focus on the season and focus on winning city and state. I feel like we have one of the best chemistries in the state playing with each other last year. That's all we need. We have a lot of good talent on the team. I feel like we can win."

The festivities at Morgan Park weren't the only Signing Day happenings from Wednesday. Corliss senior center George Conditt IV made his commitment official by signing with Iowa State on Wednesday evening.

A late-blooming big man who became a high-major recruit after a breakout summer on the grassroots circuit, Conditt shared an emotional day with family and friends during his signing ceremony at Corliss.

Since recruiting didn't come as quickly for Conditt, who comes from a football-focused family, the process didn't wear him out as much as some of the other recruits who have been tracked by colleges over the last several years.

Following in the footsteps of his father, George Conditt III, who played football for the Cyclones, the younger Conditt was thankful for the opportunity to play in the Big 12.

"I can name everyone in this room who helped me get to this point and I'm thankful that everybody could be here," Conditt said. "Today is a very special day for me and my family."

Conditt was one of three Chicagoland players to ink with the Cyclones on Wednesday as Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker and Hinsdale South's Zion Griffin will also join him in Ames as part of a four-man recruiting class.

The big winner of any program recruiting Illinois in the Class of 2018, Iowa State should be a major factor recruiting the Land of Lincoln over the next several years.

Signing Day had a heavy focus on Morgan Park and Iowa State but Whitney Young's backcourt duo of Xavier Castaneda (South Florida) and Javon Freeman (Valparaiso) also signed their LOIs on Wednesday as the defending champion Dolphins remain a major threat to repeat in Class 4A this season.

Besides Horton-Tucker, Simeon forward Messiah Jones also signed with Drake while Lincoln-Way East sharpshooter Sam Shafer officially signed to play at Southern Illinois. 

Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Nazareth Academy junior three star ranked defensive back Devin Blakley (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment earlier this week.

"Miami of Ohio is just a great fit for me so I decided to commit," Blakley said. "I've known for a while now that Miami was the place for me. I just didn't see any reason to keep waiting so I called up the coaches and committed."

Blakley, who had offers from the likes of Iowa State and Air Force long with multiple Mid American Conference schools is the second State of Illinois pledge for the Redhawks Class of 2019. Blakley joins Simeon QB Alante Brown who earlier this month gave Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. 

New Trier junior three star ranked athlete recruit Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has been looking harder at his multiple college offers and options. Olges, who has been playing baseball for the Trevians this spring will make two unofficial visits this weekend then will begin to narrow down his favorite schools.

"My plan is to go see Duke and Virginia this weekend and see how everything goes with those visits," according to Olges. "After that I'm either going to narrow things down to a top schools list or I might even make a decision. I just feel that I have some great offers right now and don't want to wait too long in making a decision. Playing the waiting game is a risk because kids are already starting to make decisions. I don't want to miss out and lose some great offers."

Stevenson junior inside linebacker recruit Maema Njongmeta (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) has continued to add scholarship offers this spring including recent offers from both NIU and Toledo. Njongmeta was also able to head out east over his recent spring break and made a handful of college visits.

"I was able to go out to visit Princeton, Army and Penn over my spring break then we headed up to Canada to visit with some family," Njongmeta said. "All three visits I felt went very well and overall it was a fun trip. I thought it was very beneficial to see all three schools in person. Army has the whole military stigma but it was good to see the academy in person. It was great to see what West Point and academy life is all about in person and it was super cool. Every school brings something different to the table. I was able to definitely get a better feel for each school I visited."

Njongmeta has reached also out to someone very familiar with the recruiting process in former Stevenson and current Northwestern super back Cameron Green.

"We have a wonderful lady who works at our school who was able to get me in touch with Cameron Green. I knew of Cameron since I was in eight grade but didn't know him at all. He's a great guy and has been a big help for me. He's given me some good advice and is someone who's been through the process and knows what I'm going through with the recruiting process."

Urban Prep Bronzeville junior defensive back Jeremiah Webb (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) was able to add his first scholarship offer earlier this week from Northern Illinois University. 

"I'm still really excited (about adding his first offer from NIU) and my phone has been blowing up," Webb said. "I've been working hard for a long time now and it just feels good to add my first offer from NIU."

Webb has been eyeing the NIU Huskies program for some time now.

"I've been looking into NIU for a long time. They have a great, winning program and have been to multiple bowl games over the years. NIU is also close to home and I've been to NIU for a camp last summer and I also went to the NIU spring game. It's great to get my first offer from such a good program like NIU."

Webb has also drawn recruiting attention from Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Cornell and Holy Cross so far this spring. 

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Simeon junior quarterback Alante Brown (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) earlier this week decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. Brown, who narrowed down his Top 4 schools to the Redhawks along with NIU, Western Michigan and Toledo pointed towards a few key reasons he gave Miami of Ohio his commitment.

"I was able to see everything that Miami has to offer," Brown said. "They offer a great education and very strong overall academics. The football program is heading in the right direction plus they already have a younger team. I'm hoping to help bring in even more kids in my class and I've already started to work on a few guys from here about Miami."

West Aurora sophomore defensive tackle Denver Warren (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) has been one of the top recruit names to watch in the Class of 202 in Illinois. Warren, who has scholarship offers from the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa State made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I had a good visit to Illinois," according to Warren. "They have a great overall energy and I just liked it. Illinois also has a strong brotherhood between the players and the coaches. The coaching staff at Illinois is pretty amazing. It was my first time ever at Illinois and I liked the facilities and the stadium. Illinois is also pretty close to home. I just came away impressed with the bond between the players and the coaches at Illinois."

Warren is also planning to transfer at the end of the spring semester to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

"It's a great opportunity and I want to go and get better and take my game to the highest level. My Mom and I have looked really hard at everything and I made my final decision and talked to my coaches about it. I'm going to visit IMG Academy on May 10th and 11th and I'll go back to register for school on July 14th."

St. Charles North junior three-star ranked defensive back Tyler Nubin (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) made a verbal commitment to Minnesota Thursday morning.

"I had a really good visit to Minnesota," Nubin said. "I spent the day with Coach (PJ) Fleck and the defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae. Their coaching staff is just unbelievable and the facilities are top notch."

Nubin held 16 scholarship offers this spring, including six offers from the Big Ten conference.  

Momence junior three-star ranked athlete Jason Bargy (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has drawn nine Power 5 scholarship offers so far this spring and made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I wanted to see the tempo and how the coaches get after the players," Bargy told Orange and BlueNews.com's Doug Buschon. "How the guys interact with each other. "

Bargy, who doesn't plan to announce any Top schools list is planning to make a college decision "over the next few months."