Big Ten

Simeon's Nunn has plenty of offers, including two close to home

790842.jpg

Simeon's Nunn has plenty of offers, including two close to home

Simeon Career Academy's Kendrick Nunn, the consensus No. 2 2013 prospect in Illinois behind teammate and Gatorade National Player of the Year Jabari Parker, has seen his recruitment pick up serious steam since the NCAA season concluded.

The smooth lefty used his impressive range and ability to finish at the basket to help the Wolverines to their third straight Class 4A Illinois state championship, a 50-48 victory over Proviso East.

And while some of the top colleges in the country have shown interest in the 6-foot-2 shooting guard, his decision could come down to the two most interested schools closest to him: Illinois and Marquette.

Rivals.com ranks Nunn as the No. 22 prospect in the 2013 class, and the seventh best shooting guard. He originally commited to Billy Kennedy and Texas A&M following his sophomore year at Simeon, when the Wolverines went 30-2 and won their second straight Illinois state championship. However, Nunn would decommit from the Aggies just over a month later, saying over Twitter that he had rushed his decision.

Thanks to his successful junior season at Simeon and his impressive spring with Meanstreets AAU, Nunn now holds scholarship offers not only from Illinois andMarquette, but alsoUCLA, Oklahoma State, North Carolina State, Missouri and a host of others. He also has a scholarship offer from DePaul, where he is visiting today.According to Josh Paunil of National Recruiting Spotlight, who spoke with Nunn earlier this week, Kansas, Syracuse and North Carolina have also shown interest in the combination guard.

Former coach Bruce Weber and the Illini had offered Nunn prior to his Texas A&M commitment, and John Groce's hiring this March will only help Illinois further.

Groce, who left Ohio University after four years, has strong Chicago connections and could help lure Nunn, who visited just over a week after Groce was hired, to Champaign.

As is the case with many of the top recruits in the country, immediate playing time will be a factor with Nunn. And the Illini should have plenty of it in 2013.

Following point guard Jalen James' decommitment on June 1, the Illini now have four open scholarships for the 2013 class. Rayvonte Rice, who transferred from Creighton this off-season and will be eligible to play in 2013-'14, would be Nunn's only real competition to start at shooting guard.

Even still, Nunn would most likely be the Illini's top recruit of the class and would see playing time immediately following senior Brandon Paul's departure.

Four hours north, Buzz Williams and Marquette, who offered Nunn in the fall of 2011, were presumed to be out of the running after 2013 point guard Duane Wilson committed in late March.

But things changed in late May, when then-Illinois assistant coach Isaac Chew, who had been on the job just over a month, resigned from Groce's staff and accepted the same position at Marquette under Williams. Like Groce, Chew is known for his connections throughout the midwest, including Chicago.

Suddenly Chew, who presumably had been recruiting Nunn to Illinois, is now doing the same for Marquette.Nunn visited Marquette on Monday, andit appears the Golden Eagles are back on the shooting guard's radar thanks to Chew.

One factor that could sway Nunn's decision is Steve Taylor. Simeon's 6-foot-8 forward signed with Marquette last November and will begin his college career this fall. Williams recent uptick on recruiting Chicago, combined with the addition of Chew to the coaching staff could help sway Nunn.

Unlike Illinois, Marquette has a bit of a logjam with its 2013 class. Junior college freshman Jameel McKay, who will be eligible for the 2013-'14 season, gave a verbal commitment to Williams on June 2. Along with Wilson and Deonte Burton, Marquette now has filled all three open scholarships for the 2013 class.

A transfer possibility is always an option, or redshirt senior Chris Otule, who has missed two years with season-ending injuries, may not be granted a sixth year by the NCAA. While that will not be known until next spring, it's likely that Williams will find a way to make Nunn fit if he were to decide to attend Marquette.Nunn also told Paunil he is planning to visit the UCLA campus sometime over the summer, before he narrows his list of schools down to three or five. He also plans to make his decision in the fall before his senior season at Simeon.

Ben Howland's group went a disappointing 19-14 last season, but he still managed to pull in the country's most impressive recruiting class. All four 2012 signees are consensus top-50 players in the country, led by small forward Shabazz Muhmammad, listed by many recruiting outlets as the top player in the class.

Surprisingly, UCLA's loaded 2012 recruiting class does not feature a shooting guard. While Nunn would have to play his college career farther from home, the appeal of playing for a blueblood program like UCLA, combined with an ultra-talented roster, could prove too much for Illinois and Marquette.

Missouri and Memphis, two schools who play an up-tempo style offense Nunn is looking for, are still in play as well, and the Syracuses, Kentuckys and Kansases of the recruiting world still could come calling with scholarship offers.

But if Nunn can not resist the appeal of playing close to home, it could put Groce and Illinois in a hot recruiting battle with Williams and Groce's former assistant in Chew.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

1021-cam-thomas.jpg
USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”