Preps Talk

Loyola's Ben LeRoy becomes first Class of 2016 commit for NIU

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Loyola's Ben LeRoy becomes first Class of 2016 commit for NIU

Northern Illinois and head coach Rod Carey were able to wrap up spring practice over the weekend, while also kicking off recruiting efforts in fine fashion.

NIU added their first known verbal commitment for the Class of 2016 when Loyola Academy junior defensive tackle Ben LeRoy (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) gave the Huskies his verbal commitment on Saturday.

[MORE PREPS: Carmel Catholic offensive tackle Sean Foster commits to Gophers]

"It's really everything that Northern Illinois has to offer that appealed to me," LeRoy said. "NIU is a strong football program that offers a great education. I get along great with the coaches and the guys on the team. I just walk around the campus and everyone is just so friendly.

"NIU is just a great fit for me. I talked it over with my family and they also are excited about my decision. NIU is just a great fit and I feel very comfortable at NIU so I decided why wait to make a decision." 

 

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

Check out our high school hoops highlights from some of the best games around the state, and be sure to follow @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest scores, highlights, and analysis

Windy City Legends: Jimmy Garoppolo

Athlete of the Week: Lincoln-Way West's Taylor Gugliuzza

Team of the Week: Hinsdale South boys basketball

Highlights: Oak Lawn 61, Richards 60

Highlights: No. 10 DePaul Prep 78, St. Laurence 57

Highlights: Deerfield 33, Highland Park 29

Highlights: No. 2 Evanston 49, New Trier 43

Midweek Mixtape: Zion-Benton 90, No. 2 Evanston 71

Highlights: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 64, Lincoln-Way East 43

Highlights: Austin 76, Prosser 43

Highlights: DeKalb 53, Naperville Central 51

Highlights: No. 24 Joliet West 59, West Aurora 54

Highlights: Simeon 88, No. 14 Morgan Park 86

Whitney Young's DJ Steward, Maine West's Angela Dugalic named to McDonald's All-American games

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

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NBC Sports Chicago

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

Whitney Young senior guard D.J. Steward became the latest Burger Boy from the Land of Lincoln with his selection into the game on Thursday afternoon. The Duke commit is the first Illinois boys basketball player to be selected for high school basketball's most prestigious game since Stevenson's Jalen Brunson in 2015.

Maine West girls basketball star and Oregon commit Angela Dugalic was selected for the girls McDonald's game. Illinois native and former Morgan Park standout Nimari Burnett was also selected for the boys game. Burnett helped the Mustangs to a Class 3A state title as a freshman before moving to California for his last three seasons of high school basketball at Prolific Prep. 

While Illinois will have multiple local storylines in both McDonald's game, the 6-foot-2 Steward being included on the boys team is a big deal for a number of reasons.

For starters, Illinois has been without a boys McDonald's All-American since 2015. From the game's debut in 1978 until 2009, Illinois had at least one McDonald's All-American every year. In the past 11 years, Illinois has been held out of the McDonald's six times -- including the past four classes. The talent drought has been noticeable over the past several years. 

More importantly, the McDonald's distinction caps off an already stellar high school basketball career for Steward. His accomplishments already include a state finals appearance and two All-Area selections (with a third almost assuredly coming later this season). 

Starting his career at Fenwick the first two seasons, Steward earned Catholic League Player of the Year honors as only a sophomore. Now dominating in the Public League this season, Steward could also own the unique distinction of being perhaps the best player in both the Chicago Catholic League AND Public League during his four-year high school career.

By making the McDonald's game, Steward also follows in the footsteps of other Whitney Young legends like Jahlil Okafor (2014) and Quentin Richardson (1998). Steward will now forever be linked to those two first-round NBA Draft picks for the rest of his career. The only thing missing from Steward's profile at this point is an elusive IHSA state title -- something the other two captured their senior season.

While Steward's selection into the McDonald's game is an important personal accomplishment, it's also huge for the rest of the local high school season. It's no secret that Illinois high school basketball has been starving for big-name talent. The buzz for the state tournament has continued to die down in recent seasons. 

Star power like Steward, and Illinois commit Adam Miller, should draw more casual interest in the local high school basketball season down the stretch. Steward making the McDonald's game makes him an even bigger draw locally for casual fans. It's likely Whitney Young will play in front of a lot of fans as they travel in the state tournament in-part because of Steward's high-profile career. 

There is still plenty of basketball to be played the rest of the 2019-20 season. Steward has time to add to his legacy as Whitney Young prepares to play for a city and state championship. Even if Steward falls short of some personal goals, he'll always be remembered among the state's greats now that he's playing in the McDonald's game.