Five-star Indianapolis North Central forward Kris Wilkes is beginning the official visit portion of his recruitment.
The 6-foot-8 small forward ranked No. 18 nationally in the 2017 class by Scout.com has official visits scheduled to, in order, Illinois, UCLA, Indiana, Xavier and Connecticut.
Wilkes sat down with Peegs.com for an extended conversation about each of his finalists, what he’s looking for on each visit and where each school stands with him.
Wilkes’ visits began this weekend with Illinois.
“For this visit, they want me to come down there and they’re going to have Jeremiah Tilmon and some of the other players who have committed there. We’re all going to be there at the same time, get to know each other, get to know some of the other guys, play together, have some fun and get a feel for the campus,” Wilkes said.
He has made a previous unofficial to Illinois but it was a while ago. “I think they were still working on their arena,” he said.
Wilkes doesn’t have a lot of familiarity at this point with Illinois players or commits.
“I played with Tilmon before but it was a long time ago,” Wilkes said. “I still remember him, and I think he remembers me. It’ll be good to talk to him, see why he committed there, what he likes about the school.”
Next up is UCLA, one of the two schools recruiting him he hasn’t seen in person before.
“I don’t even think I’ve seen a picture of UCLA on Safari or anything,” he said. “It’ll be good to get there, see the campus, meet the players.
“I’ve talked to most of the staff, but it’ll be good to see the ones I haven’t talked to before.”
After that comes an official visit to Indiana.
“They’re looking forward to having me down there, just to see it more. I’ve been going down there every year since sixth grade. I’ll get to see the guys this year. I know all the staff,” he said.
IU coach Tom Crean and assistant Tim Buckley have been recruiting Wilkes for years.
“It’s a great relationship,” Wilkes said. “I’ve been talking to them for so long. They’ve seen me grow up. We’ve been talking for a long time.”
Wilkes said he feels almost as if Crean has been coaching him with pointers that have been passed along.
“When he comes to open gyms, he tells me things I can work on, not just if I went there, but things I can work on right now,” Wilkes said. “He always texts and sees how you’re doing.”
Xavier, a short drive over in Cincinnati from Indianapolis, is another school that has been recruiting Wilkes for several years and a campus he has been on several times already.
“I’ve talked to coach (Chris) Mack a lot more recently. I got to see him coach at USA Basketball. He was telling me pointers and things I can work on,” Wilkes said.
“I know the campus a lot. I’ll get to meet their guys. I don’t think I know the guys there. I know a couple like Trevon (Bluiett). I’ll get to see more outside of Xavier. I haven’t been too much outside the gym there. I’ve been there to shoot a couple times.”
Connecticut, like UCLA, is a school Wilkes will be seeing for the first time on his official visit.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie also was involved with USA Basketball and is where he met Wilkes.
“I haven’t met the staff there, so I’ll get to meet them, meet their guys, see their playing style.
“I got to know coach Ollie there (at USA Basketball), and got to talk to him and he talked to me about some things.”
Wilkes, who grew up in Indianapolis, discussed the pull of a state wanting to see a homegrown star at the state school.
“I feel that’s always a good way to go for a lot of players, but ultimately, if it wasn’t my fit, you couldn’t go there even if you wanted to rep your state,” Wilkes said.
“They’re a great school. They have as good of a chance as anybody.”
For Wilkes, NBA development is also part of the conversation.
With his size, athleticism, skill set and work ethic, ending up in the NBA after a couple years in college is a realistic possibility.
Wilkes discussed how he evaluates a college’s track record of NBA development.
“I look at it, and some say, ‘Well, this school hasn’t developed NBA players. Why are you even looking at them?’ Ultimately, I look at it like, a lot of great NBA players didn’t even come from great colleges,” Wilkes said.
“I think it’s about the work you put in and if you’re playing the position you want to play. If you’re working toward your goals, anybody can achieve, as long as they keep grinding.
“If you’re 6-2 and playing the four in high school, you don’t want to go in there and play the four in college. You have to find what fits you, and you have to keep grinding.”
Wilkes’ official visit scheduled:
Illinois: September 9-11
UCLA: September 23-25
Indiana: September 30- October 1
Xavier: October 28-30
Connecticut: November 4-6