Preps Talk

Edgy Tim's recruiting news and notes

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USA Today

Edgy Tim's recruiting news and notes

Lake Forest’s Mac Uihlein, a four-star junior inside linebacker (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), gave Northwestern his verbal commitment this past weekend. 

“Northwestern is like family,” Uihlein told WildcatReport's Lou Vaccher. “It’s the relationships you build at Northwestern that make it more than a four-year decision. It’s a lifetime decision.

"The academic opportunities they provide are amazing, and it’s definitely something I want to take advantage of,” said Uihlein, who carries a 5.01 GPA (on a 5.0 scale) at Lake Forest and scored a 26 on his ACT. “Coach Fitzgerald, and Coach McGarigle and all the guys they recruit are just great people I want to be around. Plus, Northwestern is close to home, so my family can get to games easily.”

Uihlein said that it was during a phone conversation with McGarigle that he realized “Northwestern was the place I wanted to be. My values line up with Northwestern’s, so I decided there was no reason to wait. I wanted to make my decision now."

Uihlein is now the fourth known verbal commitment for the Northwestern Class of 2021 and the first known in-state commitment.

Richmond-Burton junior offensive tackle Luke Eckardt (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) gave the NIU Huskies and head coach Thomas Hammock his verbal commitment late last week.

"We went back and forth for a bit with NIU, but once they offered me, it's just too good of a fit and opportunity for me to pass up. So I committed," Eckardt said. "I had been thinking more and more about making an early college decision, and I feel great about committing to NIU."

Eckardt, who was starting to see his overall recruiting stock rise this early spring, discussed why he committed to the nearby NIU Huskies.

"I just really like the coaches at NIU. We've been talking a lot, and I've gotten to build a strong relationship with them. I've also been able to make visits to NIU, and I really like the campus and the facilities. NIU is also close to home, and that also played a factor in my decision. I'll be able to go to school, get a good education, and also have my family and friends see me play in college. Everything about NIU feels right to me, and my family is also behind me and is excited about my decision. NIU is building something special, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Eckardt also admitted that the timing of his decision during the COVID-19 pandemic no question played a role in his choice.

"It (COVID-19) definitely played a role in making my decision this early. With the NCAA basically pushing back recruiting (the NCAA recently extended the dead period from April 15 to May 31), I really won't have a chance to get out to visit any other schools. I also didn't want to extend or drag out the recruiting process for a long time. I'm extremely comfortable with NIU. The school and the football program is a great fit for me, and I felt ready to make my decision. So I committed."

Luke Eckardt is the sixth known verbal commitment in the NIU Class of 2021 and the fourth known in-state commitment. Eckardt joins Aurora Christian quarterback Ethan Hampton, Solorio safety Brian Whitsey and Batavia Wide Receiver Trey Urwiler in the Huskies Class of 2021.

Willowbrook junior offensive tackle Enrique Cruz Jr. (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock take off over the past week or so, adding his first offer last week from Syracuse.

"Syracuse Coach (Mike) Lynch found me on Twitter a week or two ago," Cruz said. "We've been in contact quite a bit ever since then, and we FaceTime called on Saturday. That's when Syracuse offered me a scholarship ."

Cruz discussed his initial impressions of adding his first scholarship offer from Syracuse.

"I know that Syracuse is a really nice school, and I've been online and able to do a little bit of research on them. They offer a strong education, and it's just a great offer from a great school. The offer from Syracuse was a big surprise for sure. The coaches from Syracuse said that they want me to come and visit them as soon as we are allowed to make college visits."

Cruz Jr., who added new offers from Louisville and Western Illinois on Monday, has also been in touch with Iowa, NIU and Rutgers. He made a Junior Day visit earlier this winter to Iowa.

Nazareth Academy junior defensive tackle Drew Hughes (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) saw his recruiting stock take off early this spring despite an NCAA-forced football recruiting dead period in response to COVID-19.

"It's been really exciting getting these offers all of a sudden," Hughes said. "I have offers now from Miami of Ohio, Kent State and also North Dakota. I didn't expect to be playing Xbox one day and then getting on the phone with college coaches who want to offer me scholarships the next. It's been pretty wild."

Hughes filled us in on his latest recruiting news and new suitors so far this spring.

"I have offers from Miami of Ohio, Kent State and North Dakota. I've been in contact quite a bit with the coaches from South Dakota, South Dakota State, plus Akron. I've made visits so far to Miami of Ohio, NIU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn, and also Iowa. I had visits planned to Western Michigan and Ball State, but those visits got canceled. I'm hoping that we can eventually be allowed to make college visits again, and I'm also looking at visiting Miami of Ohio again, along with North Dakota."

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.