Malcolm Hill to Illinois September 15, 2011
Now that’s more like it.
I know – an awful thing to say. Michael Orris will work tremendously hard over the next 5 years to make his dream of playing Big Ten basketball a reality, and here I am, already pushing him aside and focusing on our shiny new top-100 recruit.
Such is the life of a hoops recruiting junkie. Everything is so black and white. If you’re ranked, and especially if you’re RSCI ranked, you’re going to be a star – no question about it. I mean, there’s no chance an Alex Legion would flame out. He’s #36 on the RSCI!
Same for unranked kids. Luther Head has no chance of college basketball success – he’s not in the RSCI. Nor does Cory Bradford or Trent Meacham or the Johnson brothers. Ranked = good; unranked = bad. Black and white.
But here’s the thing – I still can’t abandon looking at rankings and only rankings when it comes to basketball recruiting. The main reason we’ve lost 70 games in the last 5 years is because Bruce Weber’s first 5 classes included only three consensus top-100 recruits (Pruitt, Carlwell, and McCamey). We couldn’t match the talent of Ohio State and Michigan State, so we couldn’t beat them. Bill Self, on the other hand, was successful mostly because Lon brought in Serge-Marcus-Frankie and he brought in Deron-Dee-Augie. Recruiting is the lifeblood. There’s a reason Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament, and it ain’t coaching.
So when I see us take a flyer on Michael Orris, I raise an eyebrow. And when I see us get a verbal from Malcolm Hill, I fist pump like a champ. Hill is #50 on Rivals, #58 on ESPN, and #69 on Scout. More importantly, he’s a shooting guard/wing to pair with all of the point guards we’ve been accumulating. That’s important, because after the DJ-BP3 class and the Leonard-Head class leave, here’s what we’re left with:
So if you ask me, the next 4 scholarships (1 in 2013, 3 in 2014) need to go to a pure shooter, a true small forward, a 3/4 hybrid wing forward/power forward, and a banger power forward/center. Or, better yet, just give Jabari Parker all four scholarships, because I think he can play all of those positions.
I’ll be curious to see how Hill develops as a shooter. ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin (do his friends call him Rankin’ Reggie?) describes Malcolm Hill as “a true shooting guard with a great upside”. If he’s a true shooting guard, that’s great, because future teams will need a shooter. But many other evaluations of Hill list his strengths as “getting to the basket” and “going to his left”, and one evaluation said he projected more as a wing than a shooting guard. If he’s not our shooter, then we need to find one in the 2014 class.
Something else that might interest only me: he’s our first recruit from the Metro-East since Richard Keene in 1992. The second largest population base in Illinois outside of Chicagoland is the Metro-East (Illinois side of the St. Louis area, and birthplace of yours truly) with 550,000 people in Madison and St. Clair counties. Yet even though it’s an area more than twice the size of Peoria, the Metro-East has only produced 3 consensus top-100 players in the last 20 years (Keene, Darius Miles, and now, most likely, Malcolm Hill). The bad news: 3 in 20 years is a poor showing for the Metro-East. The good news: 100% of the consensus top-100 players from the Metro-East who played college ball in the last 20 years did so at the University of Illinois.
One last thing: we’re down to one “available” scholarship for the 2013 class. But several of you have convinced me – I’m on board now with acting like we have two. Go get Tommie Hamilton, and after you do, continue to dream of Jabari Parker. If by some strange stroke of luck you land Parker, simply find a scholarship somewhere (either by someone leaving early to the NBA or someone leaving early to transfer). He just might be worth it.