While he is sometimes overlooked in a loaded 2017 class in Illinois, Larkin power forward Christian Negron is one to remember.
Negron possesses eye-popping athleticism and a motor that never stops. That is why Illini head coach John Groce included him in the in-state offer wave that came in April. Illinois watched him closely on the AAU circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire 16U squad.
The Illini will do their best to capitalize on the talent close to home, and Negron certainly fits in those plans.
What We Saw In July
Negron and Da’Monte Williams were a fun combo to watch throughout the summer. They complemented each other well in the high pick-‘n-roll game. Negron is an undersized four at 6-foot-6, but his long arms and leaping ability allow him to roll to the basket and finish above the rim. He is also developing a mid-range jumper, which should be a nice addition to his skill set.
Negron averaged 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game at the Peach Jam last month. He was very active on the glass at both ends with his high energy and nose for the ball. Negron also makes an impact defensively due to his length and timing. He averaged 2.3 blocks per game in Peach Jam action.
Negron embraces his role and he does it well.
“There’s not a lot of times where I’m the first option to score,” Negron said. “My role is to just rebound and block shots. Kind of bring energy to the team, that’s what I look to do.”
It has served him well to this point, as college coaches have raved about his unforgiving motor.
“That’s pretty much what’s been earning my scholarships,” Negron said. “That’s a reoccurring theme I hear from coaches. I try to take pride in it.”
Going forward, Negron looks to improve his ball skills and jump shot. He has succeeded as an undersized four, but developing wing skills would give him versatility at the next level.
How He’d Fit In Illini Class
Coaches and fans alike are always looking for the next star to insert into their program. The Illini have that potential in the 2017 class with Jeremiah Tilmon. But it’s also important to surround your headliners with strong role players. Negron can be just that in this class. He’ll continue to improve his scoring ability, but you know he’ll bring defense, rebounding and effort. His value in a variety of areas would make him a very nice addition for Illinois.
Where Do The Illini Stand
Growing up as a fan of the Illini, Negron was stoked when Groce extended an offer back in the spring. He likes the opportunity down in Champaign, and he believes the program is on its way to success in the near future.
“I think they’re going in the right direction," Negron said. "I pay close attention to how Groce runs his program and I like it a lot actually. In the next couple years, I think they’re going to be really good.”
The Illini have stayed in constant contact and made him a priority in their makeover class. Illinois’ pursuit of other in-state guys has helped with Negron. Williams has said that if he ends up in Champaign, he’d like to bring his AAU teammate with him. Based on their continuity this summer, that can only be a good thing.
The program has hosted quite a few 2017 visitors over the last few months. Negron has yet to make his way down to Champaign, but he is looking to change that soon.
“I haven’t scheduled anything yet, but I plan on going in August,” Negron said last month.
Sizing Up The Competition
The Illini aren’t the only Big Ten team that has made an early push for Negron. Iowa got in the mix with an offer in June, and they’ve done a good job with their pitch as well. Negron hinted that those two may be at the top for him right now.
“Coach McCaffery is a really cool coach. I like him a lot,” Negron said. “They’re right up there with Illinois. I’m not looking to make a decision or anything like that. But they’re a really good school.”
Negron also holds offers from Bradley, DePaul and Virginia Tech. Many other schools had their eyes on him over the summer. Look for Negron to have a variety of options when it’s all said and done.