One of the top rising juniors in the nation is Grand Rapids (MN.) Alex Illikainen. He already holds 11 offers in his recruitment and is hearing from many others early and often.
"My recruitment has been going pretty good," Illikainen. "I have been hearing from quite a bit of schools after this last evaluation period. After this last evaluation period and it has been a roller coaster a little bit with me getting ready for school, but I am enjoying it and it has been going pretty good."
While many teams are after and have been persistent with recruiting the 6-9, 210-pound Illikainen, the hometown Minnesota Gophers when had a set back when their coaching change occurred. Where do things stand now with his Gopher offer and how does he view the new headman Richard Pitino?
"When Coach Richard Pitino and Coach Ben Johnson got hired, I went down there a couple weeks after and met with them," said Illikainen. "I knew Coach Johnson from Nebraska because I got an offer from them too, but we all talked a lot and it came up about my scholarship situation. They told me that I still got a scholarship there. It was a great feeling because they are the hometown team and a great place to play with the barn, so I was pretty pumped."
"As a person, I think Coach Pitino is a great person. I have been texting him and all that kind of stuff, but he is really a great guy and a fun guy. As a coach, I haven't been around him too much or seen them play or practice. I do like what he says about his team and what his goals are, so I really like that."
Minnesota has the proximity factor on their side with Illikainen and that is something that the talented youngster knows and really likes about them.
"I would definitely say having all the people that have been in my life like my family and friends could come down and watch me is something I really like about Minnesota," said Illikainen. "I love the Barn, I love the coaches, and just that hometown feeling would be awesome. I just feel like having all the fans here in Minnesota and if I choose to go there, then it would be a great spot to be."
With 11 offers in hand and still many others that could potentially offer him down the road, when is he planning to narrow down his choices to a top list and how his fall visit agenda looks like as well?
"I haven't narrowed my schools to any top list or anything like that. I am just taking everything in and trying to visit some schools," said Illikainen. "I am thinking I will narrow down my list after my next AAU season and probably next year I will finalize things I will aim towards that, but see my options and stuff around that time."
"I have been talking to Minnesota and I might be going down to a football game on September 29. I am definitely going to try to get to some basketball games too. I would also like to visit the new schools that I haven't seen like Indiana, California and Ohio State."
Over the summer, Illikainen has really expanded his game and worked on things he normally wouldn't be able to do on his high school team. The word that comes to mind when you watch him play now is versatile, but he is still looking to sharpen his skills no matter what position he is playing on the court.
"In high school, I am one of the bigger guys, so I play more as at the five," said Illikainen. "In AAU, I am used more at the three or four. I am starting to become more versatile and my ball handling, three ball shooting and moves in the post has gotten stronger. I can pretty much do whatever the team needs me to do."
"With my size, I kind of like playing as a small forward in the four spot. That is probably my most comfortable position. I am going to definitely still work on my ball handling, my shooting and help the team win. I will work to get us to be where we need to be and hopefully we can make another long run."