Preps Talk

Recruiting News and Notes: Luke Ford commits to Arkansas

Recruiting News and Notes: Luke Ford commits to Arkansas

Luke Ford (TE), Carterville

Carterville High School three-star ranked junior tight end Luke Ford (6-foot-7, 250 pounds) ended his recruiting process on Monday. Ford, who was drawing national recruiting interest and scholarship offers this winter, made an unofficial visit to Arkansas this past weekend and gave Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema his verbal commitment.

"I'm pumped right now, if you can't tell," Ford told's Danny Ford on Monday. "I am pumped. This is awesome, I'm so excited. I'm happy to shut down the recruitment and just focus on school and sports now. I'm committed. I loved everything about Arkansas that I saw. I just don't know what to say, I'm pumped."

Gavin McCabe (DT), Marist

Marist junior three-star ranked defensive tackle recruit Gavin McCabe (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) has 24 scholarship offers this winter and remains on multiple recruiting radars.

"I have 24 offers so far," McCabe said. "It's been fun but in all honesty it's also been sort of crazy."

McCabe will remain busy this spring by making multiple unofficial visits.

"I've been able to visit Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State and Miami (OH) so far and I also went to games at Michigan State, Kansas State and Iowa State," McCabe said. "I'm looking to make a trip out East soon and visit schools such as Boston College, Syracuse, Rutgers, Virginia and North Carolina. I also want to head down South and see Arkansas and Kansas. I know that I'll also head back to visit schools like Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin. I also want to get all of these visits in by the end of spring recruiting."

Samson Evans (ATH), Prairie Ridge

While Prairie Ridge three-star ranked athlete Samson Evans (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) was hoping to have a handful of scholarship offers at this stage of his recruiting process, he admits to being pleasantly surprised by his success on the recruiting trail so far this winter.

"I have 11 offers now and I had no idea I would have so many offers at this point a year ago," Evans said. "I also just didn't expect to have as many quality offers as I have right now. I was hoping to maybe build up to some bigger Power 5 offers so it's been a great surprise."

Evans also shared his gameplan in regards to his recruiting process.

"I have a top schools list in my head but I won't be releasing any top schools list," Evans said. "I would like to be done with recruiting before the start of the season. I might decide then or I might decide at the end of spring or maybe even earlier. It all just depends when I feel ready and comfortable in making my decision. Once I'm 100 percent comfortable with a school then I'll make my choice."

Does Evans get any recruiting pitches from teammate and good friend Jeff Jenkins, who recently committed to Iowa?

"Jeff and I have lunch together every day and he makes sure to let me know where he stands with Iowa and that he wants me to commit to them," Evans said. "It's not over the top all the time, but he always seems to be wearing Hawkeyes gear a lot when ever we hang out."

Dashaun Mallory (DT), Bolingbrook

Bolingbrook junior defensive tackle Dashaun Mallory (6-foot-3, 280 pounds) is starting to see his recruiting stock take off over the past month. Mallory, who has early offers so far from Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Iowa State, NIU, Toledo and Wyoming, also made a recent visit to Michigan State.

"I was able to visit Michigan State a few weeks ago and it was awesome," Mallory said. "I really enjoyed myself at Michigan State and it was an amazing experience. The coaches at Michigan State said they love my game and want to get me back on campus. They want me to keep working hard and also stay in touch."

Mallory has also been in touch this month with coaches from Arkansas, Penn State, Michigan, Louisville, Kansas State, North Dakota State and Western Michigan.

Belleville West's Class 4A title serves as historic passing of the torch between Chicagoland and downstate

Belleville West's Class 4A title serves as historic passing of the torch between Chicagoland and downstate

PEORIA -- Belleville West finished an undefeated IHSA boys basketball campaign on Saturday night by capturing the Class 4A state title with a memorable 60-56 overtime win over defending champion Whitney Young.

An intense back-and-forth contest that delighted fans at Carver Arena, the Maroons held off the Dolphins as junior forward and Mr. Basketball candidate E.J. Liddell finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The state title matchup between the St. Louis metro powerhouse and the Chicago Public League superpower somehow lived up to the immense hype. But perhaps more important than the game itself was the significance of the outcome. Saturday's win for Belleville West also served as an important passing of the torch.

For the first time since Shaun Livingston and Peoria High went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, the largest IHSA boys basketball state title won't be going home to a team from the Chicagoland area.

Class 4A has been dominated by Chicago-area teams every year since four-class basketball came into existence during the 2007-08 season. And after Livingston and Peoria's two-year run, Jon Scheyer (Glenbrook North) and Derrick Rose (Simeon) swept through Peoria and won three straight titles to close out the two-class basketball era in Illinois.

For the last 13 years, the biggest, and most important, state title in basketball-crazy Illinois has gone to a team from the Chicagoland area. A legendary run of talents from the area saw players like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Jalen Brunson win state championships.

Liddell and Belleville West knocking off a Public League powerhouse, and defending state champion, for a state title is a significant moment in IHSA basketball history. It's the first time the Class 4A boys basketball state title is going somewhere besides the Chicagoland area.

While Class 3A has seen some memorable state title runs from teams outside of Chicago like Belleville Althoff and Rock Island, the more-depleted Class 3A field is generally considered an afterthought for many Illinois high school basketball fans.

By going undefeated against IHSA competition this season and beating a team like Whitney Young for a state title, Belleville West established legitimate credibility that should be respected all over the state. Chicago area high school fans can be fickle about downstate teams and their stars. None of those doubts should be apparent for Belleville West after the way they dominated the 2017-18 season.

Since Liddell is only a junior, and many of the Maroons' top players are also returning, it also sets up the possibility that Belleville West is the favorite for the Class 4A state title entering the 2018-19 season. Things have dramatically changed in the world of high school basketball. Transfers can change anything overnight. But given the return of Liddell, and the loss of only three seniors, the Maroons could have staying power next year as well.

It sets up for a fascinating offseason and an intriguing subplot for Class 4A next season as everyone will be chasing Liddell and Belleville West. And if Liddell pulls off the win and beats Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker and Morgan Park's Ayo Dosunmu for Mr. Basketball in Illinois then the pressure will be that much greater.

The Chicago Public League will still be the epicenter of high school boys basketball in Illinois next season. Orr and Morgan Park are coming off of back-to-back state titles. Whitney Young just missed joining them. Simeon was nationally ranked nearly all season. Curie remains an imposing threat only two years removed from its own Class 4A state title. There's a depth and quality of teams in the Public League that is unmatched anywhere else in the state.

But, for right now, that Public League's depth doesn't mean a thing. It's an afterthought. Because the Class 4A state title in Illinois high school basketball is heading south to Belleville. And it might not be leaving there for another year or two.

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

Morgan Park claims back-to-back Class 3A state titles with win over Southeast

PEORIA -- Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin brought his entire team with him to the press conference podium after claiming a second consecutive IHSA Class 3A state championship.

Irvin and the Mustangs have claimed four boys basketball state titles over the past six years. The quotable Irvin is usually only flanked by his starting five.

Even though Morgan Park had a clear star and leader in senior guard and Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu, the Mustangs needed every member of their roster to make it back to Peoria during an injury-ravaged season.

Morgan Park needed its reinforcements to make it back to the state finals. Dosunmu took care of the rest. The Illinois commit led Morgan Park's back-to-back quest with a Class 3A state title game record 28 points as the Mustangs earned a 71-56 win over Springfield Southeast on Saturday afternoon.

Although Morgan Park won a Class 3A title with Dosunmu on the roster last season, the Illinois commit wasn't able to play much during the final weekend in the state tournament after suffering a injury to his right foot that forced him to be on crutches for most of the weekend.

This time in Peoria, a healthy Dosunmu carried Morgan Park with an impressive game in front of his future head coach, Brad Underwood. Dosunmu's eight-point flurry to end the third quarter -- including a half-court buzzer-beater -- lifted the Mustangs to a 54-45 advantage entering the fourth quarter. From there, Morgan Park maintained a comfortable advantage as Dosunmu and his teammates held off the feisty Spartans.

"I told myself, once I got hurt, that it felt good for my team to win it. But I wanted to come back and be apart of it and actually be on the court," Dosunmu said.

"I just wanted to come back and redeem myself after getting hurt last year. I knew what I could do. I think I stopped the haters from saying that I couldn't win the big game."

Dosunmu did the heavy lifting for Morgan Park in the state title game. But the Mustangs needed all hands on deck during a tumultuous regular season. Morgan Park was viewed in the preseason as one of the major forces in the Chicago Public League. Injuries to seniors like Dosunmu and big man Tamell Pearson, a UAB commit, meant that the Mustangs had to change all of their plans.

Dosunmu missed 10 games with injury this season. Pearson only played in four games the entire season after multiple surgeries on his eye. That meant others like senior Cam Burrell and sophomores Adam Miller and Marcus Watson had to step up their play.

Morgan Park didn't make a lot of noise during conference play in the Public League Red South/Central. They were eliminated during the quarterfinals of the Public League Playoffs by Whitney Young. Morgan Park hadn't lost this much since Irvin's first season on the job 10 years ago.

But there was still the hope that a healthy Morgan Park could figure things out and make another run at a Class 3A state title. Once Dosunmu got rolling, the Mustangs gained a new confidence to claim another trophy.

"Absolutely, the toughest one," Irvin said of the title run. "At the end of the day I knew these guys were loyal to me. I knew they'd run through a brick wall for me. And I just had to get myself level-headed. I'm used to winning and beating everybody -- or close to it. Taking tough losses was a bit of an adjustment."

Morgan Park winning another title this season is a testament to how talented, and deep, the Mustangs have been the last two seasons. Even with teams not at full strength during the state playoffs the past two years, Morgan Park still managed to win back-to-back titles.

With five trips to Peoria in six seasons, and a roster still filled with young talent, Morgan Park should remain a major contender for years to come -- even with Burrell, Dosunmu, Pearson and the senior class moving on to the next level.

Miller has the look of a potential Player of the Year candidate. Watson played with a ton of confidence down the stretch. More promising young players are also in the pipeline in the rest of the program.

“Three-peat. Three-peat; that’s the goal,” Irvin said. “We’re going to come back home to Peoria next season — hopefully. I’m gonna be on Marcus, and Adam and Kyel (Grover) and just see what we can.”