Illinois and head coach Brad Underwood landed their most important recruiting target for the second time in three seasons on Thursday night.
Morgan Park senior guard Adam Miller became the latest Mustang guard to commit to the Illini and Underwood when the preseason co-favorite for Player of the Year announced his decision during a public press conference at the Jordan Brand store on State Street.
A consensus top-40 national prospect in the Class of 2020, Miller's commitment to Illinois gives the program another highly-regarded in-state prospect. Just two years earlier, at the very same Jordan store and under very similar circumstances, Morgan Park guard Ayo Dosunmu announced his college decision to go to Illinois -- a commitment that changed local recruiting momentum at Illinois during Underwood's first full season.
Although Miller's commitment shares similarities to Dosunmu's, Miller's pledge is also slightly different from his former high school teammate. Any program can win one major recruiting war over the big boys. By doing it twice in three years, it's a major signal that Underwood and Illinois are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to local recruiting. Landing Miller's commitment in a hotly-contested race over his other finalists of Arizona and Louisville, Miller's announcement on Thursday signifies that Illinois and Underwood are ready annually to compete with national powerhouse programs when it comes to keeping local talent at home.
While former Illinois coaches like Bruce Weber and John Groce failed to consistently keep, and develop, top in-state talents late in their tenures, Miller's commitment is a significant indication that Underwood and his staff are making positive recruiting inroads at home that could continue to last.
The term "pipeline" has become cliche in the recruiting world. But it certainly can't hurt Illinois to be continually involved with Morgan Park's best players. The Mustangs continue to churn out Division I prospects every single season. And Morgan Park has another high-major junior -- guard Brandon Weston -- waiting in the wings that Illinois is already recruiting.
Illinois will certainly need to spread its recruiting efforts more throughout the Chicagoland area to maintain recruiting stability of top in-state talents. Grabbing a top-50 player in two out of three classes -- particularly in a basketball-crazy hotbed like Chicago -- is significant.
During his junior season, Miller took the city by storm as he was the state's most dominant scorer. The lefty averaged 28.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game -- putting up multiple 40-point games and looking virtually unstoppable during certain stretches of play. Even as opposing defenses threw exotic zones and double-teams his way, it didn't do much to slow Miller down.
Miller already faced a tough set of local expectations entering the 2019-20 season. Morgan Park returns a loaded, nationally-ranked team. There's a baseline expectation for Miller to replicate his stellar junior season. Those local expectations now become enormous since Miller is staying home and going to Illinois.
Now that Miller's commitment is under his belt, he can focus on pushing Morgan Park to a potential city and state title as the preseason's No. 1 team in the area. Illinois can focus its recruiting efforts on getting additional reinforcements for Miller and his fellow 2020 recruits. And by the time Miller reaches Champaign next season, Illinois is optimistic that they'll be a consistent NCAA tournament presence once again.