Preps Talk

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

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USA TODAY

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

Phillips junior safety recruit Willie Jones (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) decided to give the University of Toledo his verbal commitment on Tuesday night.

"I decided that I was ready to make my college decision," Jones said. "I called up the coaches at Toledo and gave them my verbal commitment."

Jones discussed why he has decided to verbally commit to the Toledo Rockets.

"I just felt very comfortable when I visited Toledo a few weeks ago and it just felt like home to me. The coaches from Toledo just are great guys and I have been able to build up a great relationship with them over the past few months. The coaches are very much like father figures and I trust the coaches. Toledo is also a great football program and they also offer a good education."

Jones also hearing from several other schools but felt like it was time to make his decision.

"I was in touch with coaches from several schools. The coaches from Cincinnati showed a lot of interest along with Miami of Ohio along with a few other MAC schools. I really just felt like I was already comparing everyone else to Toledo and I really wasn't looking very hard at anyone else. I knew that I wanted to play and go to school at Toledo so why wait? I decided I was ready to make my decision and I feel great about it."

Edwardsville junior four-star ranked running back recruit Justin Johnson Jr. (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) made a weekend unofficial visit to West Virginia and came away highly impressed with the Mountaineers football program.

"I had a great visit to West Virginia," Johnson Jr. said. "I spent the entire weekend at West Virginia and I was just really impressed with the overall atmosphere and excitement level for West Virginia football."

Additionally, Johnson Jr. has a handful of upcoming college visits in mind. 

"I'm going to visit Nebraska soon along with Louisville on March 28th. I've also been in contact recently with the coaches at Cal, Michigan State and Minnesota over the last few weeks. All of those schools want me to visit this spring so I'm hoping to see a few more schools this spring if I can fit them into my schedule.

Johnson Jr. also has a time frame in mind for making his college decision. 

"My plan is to see how spring recruiting goes for me and I'm sure I'll narrow things down to a Top 5 schools list. I'm looking at making a college decision sometime this summer."

De La Salle junior outside linebacker recruit Aidan Ralph (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) made a weekend visit to Iowa State for a Junior Day event and came back home with his first offer from the Cyclones.

"I went to Iowa State on Saturday for a Junior Day event," Ralph said. "I also was able to add my first offer from Iowa State and it just feels great and capped off a great visit."

Ralph recapped his impressions from his Saturday Junior Day experience at Iowa State.

"I had been staying in contact with the Iowa State coaches quite a bit, and Iowa State has been recruiting me the hardest out of any school by far. Getting the offer from Iowa State was a big time surprise. I really was impressed with Coach (Matt) Campbell and the football program at Iowa State. Iowa State has some great coaches who are all pretty cool guys. I was able to watch a little bit of a spring practice and then we had our Junior Day program after wards. I was impressed with the facilities at Iowa State. Iowa State offered me as a linebacker and they feel that I can potentially play at any of the linebacker spots for them if needed. Most colleges like me as an outside linebacker so far. Overall I just had a great visit to Iowa State and I'll definitely look harder into them and stay in touch with the Iowa State coaches."

Ralph is also starting to draw additional recruiting attention this winter.

"Besides Iowa State I've also been in touch with the coaches from NIU and Ball State. I know that some new coaches started to follow me this weekend on Twitter after I got the offer from Iowa State. Hopefully more schools will take a look at me and my teammates later this spring."

Naperville (IIl.) Central sophomore wide receiver recruit Reggie Fleurima is one of the top sought after names in the Class of 2022 in the Midwest, and Fluerima made a weekend visit to Minnesota. 

"Minnesota was good. My Dad and I talked with Coach (PJ) Fleck and Coach (Matt) Simon a little bit. They talked about how they could use me in their offense and also focused on how the University of Minnesota can help me with life after college."

So what stood out to Fluerima at Minnesota?

"The overall team energy stood out to me at Minnesota. They all seem to buy into Coach Fleck and the culture he has built at Minnesota."

What's next for Fluerima this spring?

"I'm going to visit Nebraska this coming weekend. I'll probably add a few more college visits in April."

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.