Preps Talk

Top 5: Hottest Recruits in Illinois Class of 2021 this spring

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NBC Sports Chicago

Top 5: Hottest Recruits in Illinois Class of 2021 this spring

The Top 5 takes a look this week at who are the hottest recruits so far this spring in the State of Illinois Class of 2021.

East St. Louis four star-ranked wide receiver Dominic Lovett (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) - Lovett, who is now holding nearly 20 scholarship offers, has also become a highly sought after name from several Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools this spring. Lovett has now added SEC offers from the likes of Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State and Missouri. It's pretty rare for any kid from the Land of Lincoln to be heavily recruited from the powerful SEC conference schools.

Willowbrook three star-ranked offensive tackle Enrique Cruz Jr. (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) - Cruz Jr. added his first FBS offer back in early April and since then has seen his recruiting stock soar. Cruz Jr. added three new offers over the past two days from Wake Forest, Temple and Kansas and also recently added offers from Indiana and Toledo. Several new schools are beginning to line up for Cruz Jr.'s attention this spring, including Michigan. Cruz Jr.'s appeal is his impressive junior season video along with possessing balance, quick feet, length and the potential to add additional weight and strength at the college level. 

Glenbrook North offensive guard Jackson Carsello (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) - Carsello has just steadily added new offers after new offers this spring and is approaching 25 scholarship offers so far this spring. Carsello has also seen his offers grow from adding FCS level scholarships to his latest offers from the likes of Illinois, Syracuse and Central Florida. Carsello has continued to make big strides in the weight room and at the training table, having gone from around 200 pounds a year ago to now checking in at nearly 270 pounds.

Prairie Ridge three star-ranked athlete Carter Evans (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) - Evans, who played fullback and defensive end last season for the Wolves, is holding an impressive 31 scholarship offers so far this spring. Evans has been drawing recruiting interest and offers at either defensive end or at tight end. Evans has also remained on the short list for several Big Ten schools this spring including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Evans' size, athletic skills and football IQ have been a big draw for multiple college programs this spring. 

St. Viator three star-ranked defensive end Jeremiah Pittman (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) - Pittman is now approaching 20 scholarship offers this spring and his latest offer comes from the University of Illinois. Pittman is now holding Big Ten offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern. Pittman has tentatively set up an official visit to Iowa on June 19 as long as the NCAA decides to allow on-campus activities during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Sparty Nation got another reason to flex. And it may have Coach K seeing green.

Max Christie, a five-star shooting guard (Rivals) and the top Illinois player in the Class of 2021, is headed to play for Michigan State and legendary head coach Tom Izzo. The Rolling Meadows High School product made his decision Tuesday in an interview with Fox’s Andy Katz.

“It just felt like it was a place that I was needed and a place I wanted to go to,” Christie said. “I think Coach Izzo and his staff and all my teammates there can push me to be the person I want to be, not just on, but off the court.”

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Christie selected Michigan State —his only official visit— over, namely, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Also on his list of potential choices were Villanova, Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois and several others. While Christie is excited for Izzo to help improve his game, he also prides himself on his versatility and making an immediate impact.

“I think I can be a great facilitator and a great scorer,” Christie said. “I feel like I can do anything that Coach Izzo or the players need be to do if that means rebounding, pushing the ball, setting up an offense or coming off screens, I feel like I am versatile enough of anything that is asked of me.”

The 6-foot-6 Christie may get another boost on the court a few years down the line, as Class of 2022 phenom Emoni Bates, the top player in the current junior class, committed to play for MSU on June 30. All of this assumes Bates keeps his commitment to East Lansing and doesn’t hop the NBA. Christie remains steadfast in his committed to Michigan State and is not exploring any G-League options at the moment.

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Christie has grabbed headlines in Chicagoland since his freshman year. He has tallied a 50-point game and a triple double and had several clutch moments during his junior season. He is coming off the first 20-win campaign at ‘Meadows in nearly 30 years.

And there’s more Christie magic in the pipeline. Cameron, his younger brother, is one of the quickly-rising sophomores in the area.

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

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USA Today

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

It’s time to party like it’s 1995 —especially if you’re a high school basketball fan who likes watching the game in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) board of directors voted Monday to move the host venue for the boys state basketball finals from Peoria to Champaign’s renovated State Farm Center for the next three seasons.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion from high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021."

The boys tournament will run on March 11-13, 2021, March 10-12, 2022 and March 9-11, 2023.

“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois, Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We are grateful to the IHSA and its leadership for choosing State Farm Center and Champaign-Urbana to host the state finals.

The boys tournament, which had been located in Champaign for 77 years, moved to Peoria’s Civic Center (Carver Arena) starting in 1996. The girls tournament was also in Champaign until 1992 before moving to Redbird Arena. The girls tournament will remain in Normal.

The Champaign area was steeped in prep basketball glory for generations. The first televised championship came in 1952 when Hebron, a school of 98 students defeated a Quincy school boasting an enrollment over 1,000. Six years later, the first Chicago school —Marshall— won state. In 1972, the tournament was split into Class A (small schools) and AA (large schools). The late Ben Wilson helped Simeon win in a title in Champaign in 1984 while future NBA stars (Kevin Garnett, Melvin Ely) and NFL receivers (Antwaan Randle El and Tai Streets) graced the floor at Assembly Hall during the 1995 tournament.

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The next year was a perfect one for the city of Peoria to grab the reins for the boys tournament. Hometown Manual High School won their third and fourth consecutive state titles in 1996 and 1997. Later, Derrick Rose guided Simeon to back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. A four-class system was instituted for the 2007-08 season. Simeon dominated again from 2010-13 with Jabari Parker in the spotlight.

This year’s basketball tournaments were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.