Kyle Cain, a former Chicago Simeon and Thornton Fractional North forward, has been attending New Hampton Prep School in New Hampshire this year after four high school years in the Chicago area. He originally committed to the University of Rhode Island and even signed with URI but felt like he needed a release from his letter of intent and took the necessary steps to make that happen.
"It's been kind of tough. Committing to a school and decommitting and having people question your character, but the coaches understood and I really appreciate that."
After being granted his release, Cain saw his recruitment take off. He began hearing from some of the premier high-major programs across the country.
"I knew when I came out that I'd have some high major schools after me because of my prep school. I kept the whole thing low key until I made it public. The first school to know I was out was Gonzaga, but they didn't come see me until 2 to 3 weeks later."
Once coaches got a chance to see his game, they really paid attention to Cain, who believes that hard work is the basis for being a good basketball player.
"I think what makes my game appealing is that I'm a hard worker, and I have a hard motor. I don't give up on plays and I'm a competitor. Prep school helped me polish my game a little more, and I've gotten stronger and more mature. I could come in and have an impact as a freshman."
Still, the adjustment to college is tough, even after trekking the prep school route. Cain identified a few of the things he still needs to do to be able to come in and make an immediate difference.
"Getting to college is a totally different ballgame. I still need to get stronger to play against the older and stronger players. I need to just keep working on my skills and work on my jump shot and put in a bunch of time in the gym."
All of the work Cain puts in brings him closer to his goal of being one of the best in the game. Being a guy who hasn't been commonly labeled a top talent, he still feels like he can match up with some of the best.
"All those guys are tremendous athletes, but I put on my jersey and shoes and still go out there and play hard just like they do. There's nothing saying I can't be as good as them as long as I work hard enough."
Illinois has been looking for players who not only possess skills, but also aren't afraid of physicality. On top of his physical strength and aggressiveness, Cain brings a maturity with his game that isn't common for incoming freshmen college basketball players.
"I'm about 6'7 or 6'8 and about 213 pounds. I want to get to 225 pounds when I get to college. As far as growth I just feel like I know when to shoot the ball and when to be a team player. Maturity things. Just contribute and do what needs to be done to win."
This mantra of a team player is really Cain's identity. He wants to win, he wants to help his teammates win, and no matter what he demands the best out of himself and his teammates.
When at Thornton Fractional North, Illinois didn't pay him much attention. However, he doesn't hold a grudge and is in fact quite excited about the opportunity to play at a school rich in basketball tradition in his home state. And this week, Cain got an opportunity to spend a couple days at Illinois with the players and coaches.
"I got recruited by every D1 program in the state except Illinois, and now to get recruited by Illinois is big for me. After taking the visit I want to take a few other visits to compare this to it. Right now I love the campus and the facilities and the coaching staff.
Jerrance (Howard) and Coach Weber and the rest of the coaches have been good to me. Coach Weber has been the guy to tell me how it is and be honest."
Kyle was immersed in Illinois basketball life during his visit and came away impressed with the coaches. He also got the chance to play in some open-gym games with the team and didn't feel out of place at all.
One player who really caught Cain's attention was Illini point guard Demetri McCamey, who less than a week ago had his name in the NBA Draft contention.
"Demetri was on my team when we played pickup. He got me the ball a lot and wanted me to get a feel for how it would be. He's a really good teammate and is very unselfish and seemed like a guy who wants to win. I love playing with good point guards."
Being one of the last remaining in the class of 2010, Cain's timeline for recruiting is a little different now. He still wants to take some time to make a decision but admittedly will accelerate the process.
"I'll be in college this fall. I don't want to put a date on it but I want to know where I'm going by early June. My last day of prep school is May 28th. I just need to work in my visits with finals. If I can get it done before I come home for the summer that would be great."
Aside from Illinois, Cain has been hearing from numerous high-major Division 1 schools. His top four right now includes Illinois, Arizona State, West Virginia, and Alabama. Cain says he wants to try to visit all of his top schools, but being hard pressed for time and having finals approaching, he admits it may be difficult.
"I don't have any visits lined up right now but schools I probably will visit are Alabama, WVU, and Arizona State. I still have people calling like Marquette, Wake Forest, Virginia. People are still calling, schools from all across the country."
Throughout the rest of the process Cain will be looking to family and very close friends for guidance and advice as he prepares to make his significant decision.
"I call my mentor/brother. He's a D1 coach himself. Ty Townsend of NIU. He's like my family. I talk to him almost every day, and we talk about just about everything. My mother is very happy about all these schools being interested. She's a typical mother, she worries a lot about my education and my degree on top of basketball."