The proverbial dominos are beginning to fall on the 2018 basketball recruiting class, and Illinois is likely going to head into September without a single verbal commit. Looking around the Big Ten, you see Michigan State with four commits; Minnesota and Rutgers with three; and a slew of others with two 2018 players on board. The Illini and Nebrasketball are the lone Big Ten schools without a player having pledged to their respective schools in this class, but this shouldn’t be too much of a concern on the Illini end.
Realistically, this story should begin and end with a fringe 5-star guard out of Chicago Morgan Park, Ayo Dosunmu. Ayo is a top-30 talent in this class and the front-runner to be named Mr. Basketball in Illinois this year – to go along with being Illinois’ first McDonalds All-American since Jalen Brunson and Jahlil Okafor. Though Dosunmu announced a “top-11” this week, this battle is going to come down to Illinois and Xavier. Landing a commitment from Ayo would (likely) give Illinois Mr. Basketball for the second straight season, and when you pair Dosunmu alongside the likes of Mark Smith, Trent Frazier, and Te’Jon Lucas, we could be looking at one of the most dynamic backcourts in the nation.
The Illini would love to pair Dosunmu with a fellow Chicago product, Talen Horton-Tucker, but following a salty tweet from the Mac Irvin Fire organization
If he was 3 inches taller he will have a position. I’m not sure what’s his position at the college level because he’s not a good defender.
— Mac Irvin Fire (@TheMacIrvinFire) July 24, 2017
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js, it is highly unlikely you see these two wearing the same colors in college. Illinois still finds themselves with other quality options on the wing, if the Ayo/THT relationship is marred to the point of no return.
The “dream get” on the wing for the 2018 class will be Ignas Brazdeikis, a 6’8” wing out of Canada. Iggy, as he’s been referred to since he burst on to the scene in April, has included Illinois in his top-7, but Michigan and Vanderbilt seem to be the teams to beat.
Landers Nolley, a sharpshooter out of Georgia is another high-priority recruit on the wing for the Illini. His bracket-style recruitment
— DOUBLE UN0 (@thatbooych3z) August 11, 2017
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js is something I have never seen. A “top-32” is a little excessive, but definitely, praise the kid for stepping out of the box and being creative. Nolley may not be as highly ranked as THT or Iggy when the end of summer rankings come out, but he has the ability to change the game by catching fire from behind the arc. Look for UConn and Georgia Tech to be Illinois biggest competition in this one.
To round out the wing, there are two in-state prospects who, at the moment, are trending in opposite directions. The 2018 wing with an arrow pointing up is Zion Griffin, a 6’6” lefty out of Hinsdale South who torched high-quality competition throughout the entire month of July. Griffin can score on all three levels and has a body ready for college-level competition. His recruitment has heated up late, much like Mark Smith, but I expect him to be wearing orange and blue next year if the Illini truly want him.
The final target on the wing for the 2018 Illinois basketball is local-product, Tim Finke. Once ranked in the top-25 by Scout, Finke has seen that honor go away after a rough July, but that does not take away the fact that he has a college-ready frame with the ability to carry a team through a game if his shot is on. Finke has Illinois basketball in his blood, and expect his recruiting attention to pick up again when he finds his stroke this year during the high school season.