Preps Talk

Recruiting notes: Batavia’s Trey Urwiler gives verbal commitment to NIU

USA Today

Recruiting notes: Batavia’s Trey Urwiler gives verbal commitment to NIU

While the entire sports world has come to a crawl due to COVID-19, college football recruiting just never seems to really stop. Although the NCAA decided to implement a recruiting dead period until April 15th because of the pandemic, college coaches are still allowed to text and electronically stay in contact with recruits. 

Batavia (Ill.) junior wide receiver recruit Trey Urwiler (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) decided to give Northern Illinois University and head coach Thomas Hammock his verbal commitment earlier today. 

"When I visited NIU back in the winter and they offered me I felt back then I was ready to commit," Urwiler said. "I decided to hold off a bit, but in the end I was ready to make my decision and I called up the NIU coaches and committed today."

Urwiler, who has been to NIU multiple times over the years, discusses why he has given the NIU Huskies his verbal commitment.

"Everyone has always told me that I'll know the right school when it feels right, and NIU is that place for me," he said. "NIU feels like home and I knew pretty early on that I wanted to play and go to school at NIU. They just offer such a great fit for me from a football standpoint, along with academically, and also from a location standpoint. The coaches at NIU are building something pretty special that not a lot of people seem to realize, but once you spend some time around the coaches and the players it's pretty special."

Urwiler is the fifth-known verbal commitment in the NIU Huskies 2021 recruiting class and the third known in state pledge, joining Aurora Christian QB Ethan Hampton and Solorio S Brian Whitsey.  

Oak Park (Ill.) Fenwick sophomore dual threat quarterback recruit Kaden Cobb (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) was able to add his first scholarship offer when in-state Northern Illinois University extended Cobb an offer earlier this week. 

"I visited NIU about two weeks ago just before Coronavirus hit," Cobb said. "I had a really strong visit to NIU and the coaches asked me to stay in touch with them. I'm thrilled that they decided to offer me a scholarship."

Cobb filled us in on his thoughts from adding his first scholarship offer from the NIU Huskies.

"I'm thrilled and very surprised that NIU decided to extend me an early offer," he said. "The NIU coaches said that they wanted to see me throw in person later this spring. I just assumed that they would just wait until later this spring or maybe the summer when it came to an offer. I really had a good visit to NIU and I had some great talks with the coaches at NIU. The NIU staff might be the most real coaches I've talked with so far in my recruiting process. They just really wanted to get to know me better and they all seem like great dudes including head coach Thomas Hammock. Coach Hammock made me earn that offer and we had a really good, straight forward talk on my visit. He talked about how NIU doesn't put out a lot of early offers and how they want to get to know the kids that they do offer. NIU is close to home, like 45 minutes from my house which is a positive and I just like the school and the football program."

Bolingbrook (Ill.) junior defensive back recruit Malik Rainey (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock and offers take off over the past week or so despite it being a forced dead recruiting period from the NCAA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rainey has been able to add five new offers over the past week.

"I'm shocked that all of these offers have come all of a sudden," Rainey said. "I added an offer a handful of days ago from Western Michigan, and since then I've added new offers from Buffalo, NIU, Ball State and Ohio University."

Rainey filled us in on his initial thoughts on adding several new scholarship offers over the past week.

"It seems like the offers have all come at once so I still need to do more research on a lot of these schools," he said. "I made a visit to NIU last summer so I've stayed in touch with the coaches at NIU. I was planning to make visits to both Western Michigan and also to Miami of Ohio, but both of those visits got cancelled. A lot of the schools who offered me said originally they wanted me to visit them before they would offer me or that they would be back in school later this spring. I guess because of the virus they decided to offer me anyways. The coaches would reach out via text and I would call them back and that's when they would offer me. I'm hoping to get a chance later this spring to visit some of these schools in person."

Rainey has scholarship offers from Ball State, Buffalo. Kent State, NIU, Ohio, Virginia and Western Michigan. 

Chicago Mount Carmel junior three star rankled safety Benjamin Perry (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) recently released a Top 9 favorite schools list which includes Syracuse, West Virginia, Minnesota, Iowa State, Missouri, Northwestern, Purdue. Louisville and Cincinnati. Perry, however, recently told Midwest Recruiting analysis Josh Helmholdt that his recruiting process is now on hold because of the implemented NCAA dead period which currently is expected to last until April 15.

“The whole dead period that just happened is probably going to put a setback to what I am going to do, especially in regards to committing,” Perry told Josh Helmholdt. “I do have some favorite schools going, but it would be an immature decision for me to pull the trigger right now and skip (seeing) what the other schools have.”

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

"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."

"I just felt very comfortable when I visited Toledo 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 strong 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 good football program and they also offer a good education."

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

"The coaches from Cincinnati showed a lot of interest along with Miami of Ohio along with a few other MAC schools," he said. "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."


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.