Spring Superlatives: Illini basketball recruiting

IlliniInquirer.com lead basketball reporter Derek Piper and recruiting reporter Ryan Easterling took in a lot of basketball during the spring evaluation period. Which Illini targets and in-state prospects stood out most? Who struggled? Who are the brightest up-and-comers? Piper and Easterling break it down with our Spring Superlatives.

Most outstanding player


Derek Piper: Jordan Goodwin. He's averaging 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and four assists per game on the EYBL circuit thus far. Goodwin has been dominant, and being a top-10 rebounder in the EYBL at 6-foot-4 is impressive.

Ryan Easterling: With Jeremiah Tilmon not only technically out of the state now, but also out of action all spring, Jordan Goodwin and Da'Monte Williams jockeyed for the top spot in the rankings in 2017 most of this spring. Both made it to Peoria for the IHSA state finals series after leading their teams through impressive seasons. But it was Goodwin who separated himself throughout the second half of the spring.


While Williams struggled at times, Goodwin was consistently productive, stood out in games, and had his way with opponents. He was the heart and soul of Althoff's state championship team, and carried that role over to the St. Louis Eagles, who continued to roll despite the injury to Tilmon. His stock really took off this spring during the live period, as he earned offers from Texas, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, just to name a few. His emergence wasn't a surprise, but more of a long-time-coming. Now that he's clearly on the map, the battle for his commitment has grown more intense than ever.

Most improved player


Derek Piper: Justin Smith. The Stevenson star has been a different player on the AAU circuit this spring. He is more aggressive and explosive, and he's been the best player on a Mac Irvin Fire team that could potentially have four Big Ten players.

Ryan Easterling: I've said it a lot this spring but to me this is 2017 SF Justin Smith.  Smith went from a timid and passive to aggressive and athletic in just a year's time.  His play this spring is the result of a lot of had work and manning-up, and his improvement is very evident.

Stalled stock


Piper: Evan Gilyard. After a strong junior season, Gilyard had a chance to show he was worthy of high-major offers during the evaluation periods. But he's shot just 30.2 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from deep during EYBL play thus far.


Easterling: After a sophomore season in which he generated a lot of buzz in the Chicago area, a lot of the excitement and interest in 2017 G Alonzo Verge has really faded away. He still makes his signature "wow" plays from time to time, but hasn't developed into the college-type prospect that many envisioned, and still struggles with consistency much of the time.

Most underrated


Piper: Mayan Kiir. The 6-foot-9 big man is long, athletic, and he runs the floor. He is averaging 11.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and two blocks per game on the adidas circuit. But Kiir is unranked, and he currently just has D-1 offers from Illinois, Long Beach State, Louisville and VCU.


Easterling: Justin Smith should be noted here as well, but one guy who probably doesn't get enough love is Illini commit Javon Pickett. He doesn't play on the biggest circuit, but Pickett has been consistently productive all spring.  His versatility and ability to create mismatches put pressure on opponents to defend him, and he is able to make things happen when his teammates get him the ball.

Dr. Dunk


Piper: Simi Shittu. The 2018 Canadian product has supreme athleticism, and he is a threat to rock the rim anytime he steps on the floor.


Easterling: His dunks usually aren't flashy, but Christian Negron has posterized his fair share of defenders this spring. He's an excellent athlete at his height and doesn't back down from an opportunity to throw down. Honorable mention to Terrence Lewis here, who has thrown down a few impressive slams of his own, but Negron has a history of putting guys on highlight tapes.

Silky Sharpshooter


Piper: Brian Bowen. The five-star wing is one of the best shot-makers in the 2017 class. He can fill it up in a hurry.


Easterling: As far as Illinois prospects are concerned, Tim Finke is one of the best shooters I saw on the circuit this spring. Right now, there really isn't a Jalen Coleman-Lands-type shooter out there that Illinois is recruiting. Guys like that are rare.

Mr. Tough Guy


Piper: Easy. Jordan Goodwin. Just a junkyard dog out on the court.

Easterling: Not many players out there are tougher than Jordan Goodwin.  He's a guard in a linebacker's body and plays a relentless brand of basketball.  His athleticism and shooting have improved, but Goodwin is still best known for being a load to handle, and despite being a guard, is an animal on the glass.

Needs more Illini attention

Piper: 2018 Simeon wing Talen Horton-Tucker is built like Jared Sullinger in a 6-foot-4 body. But he is quick and extremely skilled. Horton-Tucker has torn it up with the Mac Irvin Fire 16U squad this spring, and he should be on Illinois' 2018 wish list.


Easterling: Indianapolis-area point guard Justin Roberts. Depending on what happens with Charlie Moore, the Illini could very well be in need of another point guard on the roster sooner rather than later, and Roberts has had a very good spring. He has mentioned to me before that he likes the Big Ten and would be very interested in Illinois if they offered.

Diaper dandy


Piper: Darius Garland. Goodwin draws most of the limelight in the St. Louis Eagles backcourt, but Garland has shown why he's a five-star point guard in the 2018 class. Illinois offered him on Sunday, and rightfully so. Garland is as good of a scoring playmaker as you'll see on the scene.



Easterling: This one to me is a toss-up between the two top in-state guys in the 2018 class, both of which hold Illinois offers. I've already mentioned Tim Finke, but Morgan Park point guard Ayo Dosunmu also really put his name on the map this spring as the top point guard in the state in 2018 with solid play and great ability to score the basketball. http://www.scout.com/college/illinois/story/1668699-young-standouts-from... Like many other point guards from Morgan Park, he knows how to run the show and can take over when needed. If we're talking about the eye test, though, 6'10" tall 2019 prospect Francis Okoro of Normal (IL) West takes the cake.  Okoro is a rock solid post with serious athleticism for a guy his size at his age.  Illinois has some talent in 2019, but if Okoro sticks around, he's going to be tough to beat for the top spot in that class.


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