Illikainen Scores Big Offer

2015 forward Alex Illikainen isn't afraid to mix it up down low, thanks to growing up with three ice hockey-playing sisters.

Despite two lackluster weekends for his Minnesota Cyclones during the final two July viewing periods, Grand Rapid (Minn.) 2015 big man Alex Illikainen did have something to celebrate once the summer AAU circuit concluded: An offer from California.

"It was awesome to get that offer," Illikainen said. "It's a place that I definitely want to explore, and I feel that I could go to. I'm excited about trying to get out there, watching the games, seeing how the coaches are and meeting them. I'm excited."

An offer for the 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward had been in the works for quite some time, but after seeing Illikainen up close during July, assistant coach Gregg Gottlieb was finally able to pull the trigger.

"I've been talking with the coaches, and they seem like great guys," Illikainen said. "I'm excited about them, and they have a great school. It's the No. 1 academic public school. That's really nice. I'd get a great education there. To be out in California sounds awesome, too."

As big and as strong as Illikainen is, he's never had things easy, growing up in a house of three sisters – all of whom play ice hockey, and two of whom play collegiately.

"I'm the only boy and the only basketball player," Illikainen said. "They try beat me up sometimes, but I don't let them."

Illikainen himself played ice hockey until third grade, as do many Minnesota youth, but judging by the attention he's gotten over the summer, he certainly made the right choice as far as sports.

The three-star No. 16 power forward boasts a 6-foot-9 wingspan and offers from Iowa State, Creighton, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northern Iowa and Oregon, but his parents are not urging him to stay close to home.

"I have two older sisters who are playing college hockey – one's at Dartmouth and one's at Providence – so that's far away, too," Illikainen said. "They're used to it. They just want me to explore where I like and they want me to go where I love."

With school just around the corner, Illikainen is hoping to take some unofficial visits to his schools of interest.

"I'm going to try to go on a couple in the all or even in August, maybe October," Illikainen said. "I definitely want to try to get out to California. I've been talking to my parents and they want to get out there, so that's something that, this fall, I'll try to do."

Once the season starts, Illikainen said he wants to improve on his ball handling and jump shot.

"I've been working on that a lot," he said. "One thing that I really want to work on is driving to the basket – when they come out too far, you can go right around them and finish at the basket. That's what I want to work on."

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