Ulis down to seven, new names emerging

The Purple Wildcats weekly recruiting column offers you the most up-to-date coverage on Northwestern basketball recruiting

This past week, Tyler Ulis released his top seven schools: Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue, DePaul, Florida State, Iowa and USC. After talking to Ulis, I'm under the firm impression his NU interest is authentic.

Is Michigan State the clear favorite? Yes, but things happen, and NU has an interesting pitch. He'd be the first big-time signing under Collins, and would¬–I believe–reenergize the dormant fan base. With his playmaking ability, he could rise to become one of the best players in school history. You can't say that at other schools.

Some schools will regret missing out on recruiting Ulis. He's small, but looking at him, I find it impossible to believe he won't grow several inches. His long arms give him the defensive length of a six-foot player. He can compensate for his small stature, as well, with deceptive quickness and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.

Signing Ulis would change everything at Northwestern. It would be one of the most significant moments in program history. Collins needs the program-defining point guard, and someone who can help NU escape from the memories of the slow Princeton days and move into an up-tempo attack. Collins–at least according to Ulis–wants to start playing quickly.

This program needs one piece to fall, and then others will begin to buy in. Many critics of my recent recruiting feature said that, well, progress is nothing if the team doesn't sign anyone. My response: You can't separate the process from the results. It takes hours of discussions and evaluations to build–and decide how you want to build–the future program. Even if the team fails to land its star in 2014, the word-of-mouth and improving reputation will show eventually.

Three Pointers

1) I'll go on record saying that Josh Cunningham is the most likely land for Northwestern. For those who assume Marcus Bartley will be the first Chris Collins commitment: not so fast. He's picking up interest from several schools, including Stanford and Purdue—and his final decision will likely hinge on where he feels he'll best "fit." There's a distinct possibility Bartley chooses NU, but I wouldn't call it probable—at least not yet.

Northwestern has an excellent opportunity in the form of Cunningham. He's an impressive athlete who would excel at the small forward position. Coaches might have reason for concern, yes. He's an outstanding high school power forward, but needs to add perimeter shooting to his repertoire. Also: I can't possibly see how the addition of former Duke guard Sean Dockery to the Morgan Park coaching staff won't help Collins in his recruitment. Barring some new offers, my instinct tells me Cunningham will choose between NU and Iowa State.

2) If you haven't read up on Aaron Jordan, do so now. He blew me away with his maturity and leadership at Fort Wayne last month, and then followed it up with another excellent offensive performance this weekend in Riverside. Jordan has the skillset necessary to earn the four-star ranking; he's one of the most impressive shooting guards I've seen—out of an impressive list. Tavaras Hardy made a brilliant early move to recruit Jordan, as did the Illinois coaching staff.

Jordan holds a handful of mid-major offers, which will change very quickly. Given his incredible shooting ability (easy 45-40-80 candidate at the college level) and above-average defense, it's only a matter of time before more coaches take note. For now, though, NU has the chance to seize a head start. He's a potential program-turning guard who should receive an offer when Collins watches him play sometime in July.

3) I'm guessing that if NU had the option to sign anyone on its recruiting board, Reid Travis would be the first choice—by far. He's among the players most aggressively recruited by this coaching staff, and fills that essential power forward position. He loved NU from the moment Hardy offered him in 2011, and despite increased interest–and a blossoming national profile–he's definitely considering NU.

Travis will take all of the necessary visits after deciding on his sport. Did we mention he's a three-star quarterback? With how high his ceiling looks, I'm convinced he'll pick basketball, and am convinced NU will make his final list. Though he holds offers from schools like Michigan State and Arizona, some of his strongest relationships have been formed with members of the NU coaching staff.

Names to Watch

Edward Morrow, Simeon (Ill.)
The three-star power forward could receive looks from Northwestern in the coming months. The team continues to aggressively recruit for the 2015 class—and Morrow could fit an important need at the 4-spot. He's an important name to follow, and someone we'll start watching.

Chris Egi, St. Andrew's (Ont.)
It's not just my Canadian whim. Bill Carmody offered the CIA Bounce power forward late in his tenure, and I'd be shocked if Collins didn't re-extend. Egi is focused on academics–naming Harvard and Stanford among his top schools–and would be an excellent interior defender.

Joseph Toye, Whitney Young (Ill.)
An excellent athlete–and track city champion–Toye would energize any fan base. Though he's an undoubtedly raw player, he's aided by an above-average shooting stroke and speed in driving the rim. He projects to be an offer-worthy small forward, and the coaching staff has to understand the close relationship he has with Aaron Jordan.

Check in next week for another basketball recruiting column. Submit any questions you might have–or things you want addressed–to njmedline@gmail.com

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