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. 

High School Lites Football Semifinals Roundup

High School Lites Football Semifinals Roundup

High School Lites has plenty of great IHSA football playoff action from the semifinals on Saturday as NBC Sports Chicago has highlights of many of the area's top matchups. 

Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie RidgeEpisode 14

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Raby's Dq Smith McAllister

St. Xavier Team of the Week: Marist girls volleyball

This Week's Scores

Class 8A

Loyola Academy 17, Edwardsville 10

Lincoln-Way East 24, Maine South 14

Class 7A

Lake Zurich 14, Mount Carmel 7

Batavia 23, Benet Academy 13

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge 42, Hoffman Estates 21

Nazareth Academy 24, Providence Catholic 7

Class 5A

Phillips 27, Sterling 14

Dunlap 21, Washington 0

Class 4A

Morris 43, Raby 8

Rochester 31, Highland 14

Class 3A

IC Catholic 7, Byron 0

Pleasant Plains 41, Anna-Jonesboro 2

Class 2A

Gibson City 14, Newman Central Catholic 8

Maroa-Forsyth 25, Shelbyville 14

Class 1A

Tuscola 21, Athens 14

Lena-Winslow 12, Forreston 8


NBCSPreps Boys Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

NBCSPreps Boys Basketball Preseason Power Rankings

The 2017-18 IHSA boys basketball season has a lot of talented teams in the Chicagoland area. See who made the preseason top 25, headlined by five Public League powerhouses.

No. 1 Morgan Park

No. 2 Whitney Young

No. 3 Simeon

No. 4 Orr

No. 5 Curie

No. 6 Fenwick

No. 7 Bolingbrook

No. 8 Waukegan

No. 9 Niles North

No. 10 Uplift

No. 11 Romeoville

No. 12 Hinsdale South

No. 13 West Aurora

No. 14 Larkin

No. 15 St. Rita

No. 16 OPRF

No. 17 St. Charles East

No. 18 Kenwood

No. 19 Willowbrook

No. 20 Bloom

No. 21 Evanston

No. 22 Lake Zurich

No. 23 Proviso East

No. 24 Lincoln-Way East

No. 25 Libertyville