Preps Talk

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon lineman backs off Illinois commitment

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon lineman backs off Illinois commitment

Simeon’s three star-ranked junior offensive guard Marcus Harper II (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) gave Illinois his verbal commitment last month, but earlier this week backed off that commitment and has reopened his recruiting process.

"I think my decision to decommit from Illinois definitely surprised a lot of people," Harper II said. "I just felt that I made my decision too early and I want to see what some other schools have to offer. I wanted to be honest with the coaches at Illinois and let them know upfront that I wasn't ready be set on my college choice. That's why I decommitted."

Harper II has also seen his recruiting stock pick up quickly after announcing his decision.

"We've been seeing a lot of college coaches in school," he said. "We've seen the coaches in school from Michigan State, Cincinnati and Iowa State along with several other schools. Duke was also in school not too long ago and they have really picked things up. Oregon offered me already and I've been talking with them a lot since my decision. I'm also now in touch with the coaches from Arizona State, Florida Atlantic and also Cal."

Look for Harper II to make all five allowed official visits. He is hoping to schedule an official visit later this spring to Oregon.

Lake Forest four star-ranked DE Rylie Mills (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) made his third official visit to Ohio State last weekend. Mills, who originally planned to take five official visits decided earlier this week that he's done taking official visits and will soon make a college decision.

"I'm also done taking official visits," Mills said. "I'm now going to take a few weeks to think everything over and then I'm going to make my college decision."

Mills is down to a top three schools list that includes Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Ohio State. He has made official visits to all three schools over the last month.

Brother Rice junior safety Giacomo Iraci (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) gave Western Michigan his verbal commitment on Tuesday evening via his Twitter account. Iraci, who was a starter last season on the Crusaders’ Class 8A state title runner up team had scholarship offers and recruiting attention from several Mid-American Conference schools along with some Big 10 programs this spring.

Hillcrest sophomore running back Mar'Kiese Irving (5-foot-10, 178 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock soar this week. Irving has added offers this past week from Illinois, Duke and Cincinnati. He is now holding 10 offers and that amount figures to grow.

"I just didn't think it would blow up like this," according to Irving. "My head coach (Mo Weaver) told me that a lot of colleges would come into school this spring and offer me scholarships, but I still didn't see it coming."

 

Mar'Kiese Irvin has scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Louisville, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Illinois State and Kent State.

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.