The Class of 2018 will continue to fill out with Wednesday's traditional National Letter of Intent signing day.
In recent years, signing day generally presents lots of drama and last-minute surprises; however, this current class is (for the most part) signed, sealed and delivered.
An overwhelming majority of recruits in Illinois took advantage of the first ever NCAA-approved early signing period for football (Dec. 20-22) and just a handful of names in my Top 70 recruit ranking waited until today to make their decisions final.
Below is my final Illinoiss Class of 2018 recruit rankings:
1. Luke Ford, TE, Carterville (Georgia)
2. Micah Jones, WR, Warren Township (Notre Dame)
3. Devin O'Rourke, DE, Lincoln-Way East (Northwestern)
4. Jack Sanborn, LB, Lake Zurich (Wisconsin)
5. Quincy Patterson, QB, Solorio (Va Tech)
6. Noah Shannon, DT, Oswego (Iowa)
7. Elijah Teague, DT, Marist (Minnesota)
8. Bryce Effner, OT, Metea Valley (Penn State)
9. Tyrik Henderson, DB, Glenbard North (Undecided)
10. Wyatt Blake, OG, Crystal Lake Central (Northwestern)
11. Ben Bryant, QB, Lyons Township (Cincinnati)
12. Mike O'Laughlin, TE, Fenwick (West Virginia)
13. Dashaun Mallory, DL, Bolingbrook (Undecided)
14. Jeff Jenkins, OG, Prairie Ridge (Iowa)
15. Charles Robinson, TE, Waubonsie Valley (NIU)
16. Coran Taylor, QB, Peoria (Illinois)
17. Brian Kaiser, TE, New Trier (Northwestern)
18. TJ Ivy, TE, Marist (Indiana)
19. Gavin McCabe, DL, Marist (Indiana)
20. Charlie Schmidt, OL, Libertyville (Northwestern)
21. Jayshon Jackson, WR, Simeon (Cincinnati)
22. Hunter Woodard, OL, Tuscola (Oklahoma State)
23. Jordyn Slaughter, OL, Althoff (Illinois)
24. Matt Bjorson, TE, Hinsdale Central (Indiana)
25. Nick Marozas, OL, Brother Rice (Indiana)
26. Marques Cox, OL, Peoria (NIU)
27. I'Shawn Stewart, WR, Bolingbrook (Undecided)
28. Samson Evans, ATH, Prairie Ridge (Iowa)
29. Nick Mangieri, TE, Dunlap (Northwestern)
30. Joe Bonds, LB, DeLaSalle (NIU)
31. Antwain Walker, DB, Oswego East (NIU)
32. Mario Wright, LB, Homewood-Flossmoor (W Ky.)
33. Justin Hall, ATH, Homewood-Flossmoor (NIU)
34. Alec Pierce, WR, Glenbard West (Cincinnati)
35. Isaiah Lee, DT, Nazareth Academy (Iowa State)
36. Marquis Burks, DE, Curie (Iowa Central CC)
37. Jaylan Alexander, LB, Hoffman Estates (Purdue)
38. Jack Sullivan, DE, Plainfield East (Purdue)
39. Julian Pearl, OL, Danville (Illinois)
40. Zaire Barnes, DB, Carmel (Western Michigan)
41. Terrance Taylor, DE, Phillips (Toledo)
42. Jayden Reed, WR, Naperville Central (Western Michigan)
43. Clayton Isbell, DB, St. Charles East (Illinois State)
44. Byron Perkins, DB, DeLaSalle (Purdue)
45. Mike DeHaan, DE, Andrew (NIU)
46. Alek Thomas, WR, Mount Carmel (TCU)
47. Mariano Sori-Marin, LB, Providence Catholic (Minnesota)
48. Nolan Eike, OL, Batavia (Central Michigan)
49. Eric Mooney, QB, Huntley (Northern Iowa)
50. Fotis Kokosioulis, RB, Maine South (NIU)
51. Leon Payne, WR, Simeon (NIU)
52. Jeremy Cooper, OL, Mount Carmel (Cincinnati)
53. Ryan Selig, LB, Lakes (Western Michigan)
54. Queneil Morrison, DT, Phillips (NIU)
55. Cortez Hogans, LB, Palatine (NIU)
56. Jeff Griffin, DL, Homewood-Flossmoor (NIU)
57. Jyran Mitchell, ATH, Rich Central (NIU)
58. Matthew Stuckey Jr., LB, Rich Central (Western Michigan)
59. Keonta Nixon, WR, Glenbard East (Central Michigan)
60. Marcellus Johnson, OL, Normal Community (Eastern Michigan)
61. Amir Brummett, ATH, Decatur MacArthur (NIU)
62. Will McCabe, DE, Fremd (Western Michigan)
63. Nick Calcagno, WR, Naperville North (Illinois preferred walk on)
64. Charlie Gross, OL, Loyola (Fordham)
65. Derric Lee, DB, Waubonsie Valley (Columbia)
66. Christian Perez, QB, East St. Louis (Navy)
67. Brendan Cooke, DE, Libertyville (North Dakota State)
68. Austin Glazier, OL, Fenwick (Fordham)
69. Jarell Anderson, RB, East St. Louis (Iowa Western CC)
70. Drake Davis, QB, Naperville North (Illinois preferred walk on)
Why would students from De La Salle, a Chicago high school, take part in a charity dodgeball tournament over 30 miles away in Wheaton? For fun and games, of course. But to also raise funds and awareness for a good cause.
I had a chance to catch up with De La Salle’s three-star ranked junior defensive end Steven Hawthorne (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. Hawthorne is an upcoming senior who recently added his second Big Ten offer (Nebraska) this offseason. He could be on the verge of a major recruiting breakout this spring.
And Meteors head coach Mike Boehm and company may have picked up their first victory on the season. De La Salle took home a first place finish in their first-ever appearance.
Check out the interview with Steven Hawthorne above.
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.