High School: Northwestern Wildcats
Ulis, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Matteson, Ill., is ranked No. 38 overall and the No. 8 point guard in the Class of 2014 by ESPN. He eliminated DePaul, Florida State, Northwestern and Purdue from the schools he was considering.
DePaul, Florida State, Northwestern and Purdue are out for point guard Tyler Ulis, who has narrowed his prospective college choices to Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State and USC.
Ulis holds offers from Iowa, Michigan State and USC, but not from Kentucky. James said Kentucky coach John Calipari has expressed interest in Ulis and believes an offer could be coming.
“There’s mutual interest,” James said. “We’ve had the opportunity to talk to Coach Calipari, and they basically said Tyler is a great point guard, great leader and they would love to give him an opportunity to run their program. Coach Cal wants to get to know Tyler and us to get to know him.”
Kentucky made the list because of its recent successes, James Ulis said.
“John Calipari has produced the most point guards in recent years and has taken them right to the NBA,” he said. “He obviously knows how to coach point guards. He knows how to put them in positions to lead the team. He’s a tough coach. There’s accountability from Day 1 to win and win at a high level.”
While Kentucky is the newest suitor of Ulis, Iowa has been on him the longest.
“What I love about [Iowa coach Fran McCaffery] is from the beginning he clearly stated Tyler was the point guard to lead his team,” James said. “What is being said about Ty now is what Fran said about him last year. We also like the offense that Fran runs, and Fran is just a great guy. Tyler will get an opportunity to play the style he wants to play.”
Style also factored in Ulis’ decision to keep USC on his list. Ulis was attracted by the fast-paced game USC coach Andy Enfield used while previously at Florida Gulf Coast.
“Tyler really loves his offense, that open style of game -- pass, run-and-gun and open space,” James said. “They get up and down the court. They get after it. He’s coached in the NBA and obviously has some shooting videos out. He’s a great shooting coach. I think for Ty to go to the next level he has to knock down the 3 consistently.”
Michigan State also made the cut for a variety of reasons.
“Michigan State, obviously the tradition at point guard; I’m a big Magic Johnson fan,” James said. “They’ve won. They’re had success. You want your kid to play for Coach [Tom] Izzo. They always get some really good players. Obviously the family tie, [Tyler’s cousin] Travis Walton played there.”
James said no in-state schools made his son’s final list because the other schools were better fits. DePaul and Northwestern had been recruiting Ulis, and his family created relationships with DePaul coach Oliver Purnell and Northwestern coach Chris Collins. The family also recently heard from Illinois, but James said it was too late in the process to consider Illinois.
“Illinois recently reached out to us concerning Tyler,” James said. “It would be tough to go that direction because they were going another direction before. We respect that. I didn’t know the reason they hadn’t approached Tyler [previously]. We were told they weren’t going to recruit another point guard in 2014. Once Tyler did what he did [on the club travel scene], Coach [John] Groce reached out.”
James said his son plans to set up official visits in September and decide on a school before the early signing period in November.
Law, a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward, chose Northwestern over Dayton, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Stanford and VCU. He is ranked No. 66 by ESPN in the Class of 2014.
“There’s nothing like being No. 1,” Law said of becoming the first top-100 recruit ever to commit to Northwestern. “Knowing that, I really believe in coach Collins. I think [Northwestern] can go to the [NCAA tournament] this year. I think the sky’s the limit for them and they can only go up. I really believe in coach Collins. I just think he has a great basketball mind.”
St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare, a former Division I assistant coach, thinks Law and Northwestern are perfect for each other.
“I think it’s an all-around fit for everyone,” DeCesare said. “As far as Vic playing, his greatest characteristic is his versatility. He’s a very skilled wing with great size. He has an ability to knock down shots and create shots. Defensively, he can guard multiple positions, which is a huge plus.
“He’s been a three-year starter for me. Every year, he’s gotten better and better. There aren’t too many guys who are 6-8 and can knock down the deep 3 and get to the rim and finish. If he puts his mind to it, he can be one of the best players in the state.”
Law believes he is just the start for Northwestern in attracting top-100 players.
“I’m going to bring in some guys with me,” Law said. “I’m not worried about it. Being No. 1 means nothing until there’s No. 2.”
Law averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last season for St. Rita of the Chicago Catholic League.
Northwestern assistant coach Armon Gates was the lead recruiter on Law.
Collins was hired in late March to replace Bill Carmody, who was fired after 13 seasons. Northwestern has never been to the NCAA tournament.
Law is Northwestern’s first Class of 2014 recruit.
Ellis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, chose the Gophers over Butler, Kansas State and Northwestern. He is ranked the No. 94th shooting guard in the country by ESPN. He averaged 16 points last season.
“It was a good fit for me,” Ellis said. “Coaching staff told me I have an opportunity to play. I’ll try to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Ellis is Minnesota’ first Class of 2013 commitment.
Could that be the Big Ten's new motto? It's become the motto for nearly all of college football over the past decade with the advent of the spread offense.
Rich Rodriguez tried it at Michigan. Urban Meyer is bringing his to Ohio State. Penn State had its "HD Offense."
The Big Ten is no longer just a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust league. But it is nothing new for some of the high schools in the Midwest.
Rocky Pentello has been coaching at Westerville South in Ohio since 1991. He estimates his team has been running the spread offense for close to 15 years now. While Ohio and the Midwest are known for producing linemen, not every program is blessed with the horses up front year after year. Pentello and his staff began incorporating the shotgun-based spread to even the playing field.
Pentello implemented zone-blocking schemes for his offensive line, which, in its simplest terms, is predicated on blocking an area instead of just a man.
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The 6-8, 195-pound Taphorn chose the Wildcats over offers from Boston College, Bradley, Creighton, Illinois State and Southern Illinois, among others. ESPN ranks him as the 14th best player in Illinois and 36th best small forward in the country.
Taphorn plays for the Illinois Wolves club team, and Northwestern coach Bill Carmody was present at the Wolves' games throughout the first July recruiting period. Taphorn previously visited Northwestern.
"His upside is off the charts," Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins said. "He's an accomplished player both at the high school and travel circuit level. He's 6-8 and he's growing. He's continually getting stronger. He has toughness inside and outside as well. He has an ability to shoot the ball and make shots. His desire to win is at a high level.
"Those are the things Northwestern needs to have to be at the level they want to compete for Big Ten championships and get into the NCAA tournament."
Northwestern's all-time leading scorer John Shurna and sophomore starting point guard David Sobolewski also came from the Wolves' program.
Taphorn averaged 14 points and five rebounds as a junior at Pekin.
Taphorn is Northwestern's second Class of 2013 commitment. ESPNU 100 point guard Jaren Sina previously committed to Northwestern.
Here’s an in-depth look at Northwestern’s 2012 football recruiting class:
Top prospect - Defensive end/linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo received the highest ESPN recruiting grade (82) of Northwestern’s recruits. He actually received the highest grade of any of the in-state schools’ recruiting classes. Odenigbo, who is 6-3 and 212 pounds, is the sixth-ranked defensive end and the 51st-ranked overall player in the country by ESPN. Athleticism and toughness are two attributes most often associated with him.
Sleeper prospect - Plano safety Joseph Jones could be one to watch out in the future. Jones missed most of his junior season due to injury, but it didn’t stop the Wildcats from recruiting him. He has good size (6-1) and speed and he can jump. To add to the story, he was Plano’s first Division I athlete since 1971.
Illinois winners - Northwestern’s recruiting class only includes four Illinois players, but three of them played in a state championship game. Dean Lowry played on Boylan’s Class 7A state championship team. Dan Vitale was on Wheaton Warrenville South’s Class 7A runner-up team. Malin Jones was on Joliet Catholic’s Class 5A runner-up team. Lowry and Vitale also won state championships their junior seasons.
Versatile Vitale - Northwestern is sure to find a place on the field for Wheaton Warrenville South’s Dan Vitale. Vitale was Mr. Everything for his high school team last year. He led the Tigers in rushing, receiving and touchdowns. He’s expected to play superback at Northwestern.
Penn men - Pennsylvania has become a popular recruiting stop for Northwestern’s coaches. The Wildcats will sign five recruits from the state, and three of their top-five recruits are from Pennsylvania. The state has been kind to Northwestern before. Just off last year’s roster, the Pennsylvania natives included Dan Persa, Quentin Williams, Jeravin Matthews and Ibraheim Campbell.
Building an O-line - Four of Northwestern’s top-five recruits are offensive linemen. Adam DePietro is the 46th-ranked offensive tackle; Ian Park is the 38th-ranked offensive guard; Kenton Playko is the 80th-ranked offensive tackle; and Connor Mahoney is the 64th-ranked offensive guard. The class also includes Eric Olson, who is the 143rd-ranked offensive tackle.
No quarterbacks - Northwestern’s recruiting class does not include any quarterbacks. It should be a position the Wildcats are firm in for at least a few years. Kain Colter will be a junior next season, Trevor Siemian will be a sophomore, and Zack Oliver will be a redshirt freshman. The Wildcats have offered a number of 2013 quarterbacks, including Bolingbrook’s Aaron Bailey and Maine South’s Matt Alviti.
Safety boost - Northwestern’s 2011 recruiting class included one safety. Its 2012 class has three of them. Dwight White Jr. is the 102nd-ranked safety, Terrance Brown is No. 112, and Joseph Jones is No. 131.
Searching for a running back - Northwestern’s running game improved in 2011, but the Wildcats are still in search for a lead back. Mike Trumpy could be that guy when he returns from injury. Treyvon Green and Adonis Smith also carried the ball last season. Northwestern’s 2012 recruiting class includes at least two potential running backs in Joliet Catholic’s Malin Jones and Traveon Henry, who played at Pine Crest in Florida. Jones is ranked the No. 87th running back. He rushed for 1,681 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Henry is ranked the 121st running back.
ESPNU 150 recruits - Northwestern obtained a commitment from an ESPNU 150 recruit for the second consecutive year. Christian Jones was an ESPNU 150 recruit in 2011. Jones made 16 catches for 195 yards during his freshman year.
Worth noting - Kyle Prater isn’t technically a 2012 recruit, but his recent decision to transfer to Northwestern from USC was a major recruiting coup for the Wildcats. Prater was ranked No. 45 in the Class of 2010 by ESPN coming out of Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill. He had 64 receptions for 1,151 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season.
Scouts take - ESPN Midwest recruiting analyst Jared Shanker said, “Signing day should be pretty quiet for Northwestern, which received its biggest gift of the 2012 class on Jan. 7 when Ifeadi Odenigbo, ranked No. 51 in the ESPNU 150, committed to the Wildcats. Odenigbo could redshirt next season, but if he plays as a freshman he could make an immediate impact as a third-down rush linebacker. The Wildcats did a great job bolstering both the offensive and defensive lines as their top seven recruits are all lineman if Odenigbo, who played end in high school, is included. Three-star offensive linemen Adam DiPietro, Ian Park, Kenton Playko and Connor Mahoney could make up four of the five line spots in a few years."
Matt Alviti wasn’t even sure he was going to be Maine South’s starting quarterback a summer ago.
A year later, Alviti’s life has changed.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Alviti won the quarterbacking job in the fall as a sophomore, led the Hawks to their third consecutive state championship and has already impressed college coaches enough to be offered four Division I scholarships to date, including a recent one from Notre Dame.
“It has come quicker than I thought,” Alviti said on Saturday.
Alviti has also drawn offers from Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern. Northwestern was the first to offer him, and Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald did so the day after Maine South won the Class 8A state championship in November.
“I can’t really tell you how it felt,” Alviti said. “To win state, and the next day receive a Division I scholarship, I’m at a loss for words.”
Illinois coach Ron Zook pulled the trigger shortly later.
“It’s a little surprising going into his junior year,” Maine South coach David Inserra said of all the offers. “I think everything has sped up immensely. That’s one of the things the coaches said in recruiting in the spring. They just say everything has sped up from five years ago. Unfortunately, it’s probably followed the basketball route where they feel they have to offer earlier and earlier.”
Where some players may be a risk to offer so early, Inserra doesn’t think Alviti falls in that category. As a sophomore, he completed 183-of-281 passes for 3,064 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 577 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the 8A championship game, he was 16 of 21 for 224 yards and one touchdown.
What especially has impressed Inserra is Alviti’s knowledge for the game, and that he expects is only going to grow.
“He’s extremely intelligent, but he’s only a sophomore,” Inserra said. “I can’t imagine what he’ll be like when he’s a senior. His mechanics, arm strength and footwork are what separate himself. He already gets it. He’s won a state championship for us.”
Alviti and the Hawks will be the likely favorite to win a fourth consecutive championship in the upcoming season. The Hawks return a plethora talent on both sides of the ball.
“We’re looking for another state title run,” Alviti said. “There’s always pressure at Maine South, especially when you win three in a row. But you can’t take that with you. You have to play every game like it’s your last. Everyone is coming for you. We know we have that pressure.”
As for recruiting, Alviti doesn’t see any pressure in that for now. He plans on completing his junior season before he starts to make a decision. Right now, he said he did favor Northwestern and Notre Dame because of their future quarterback situations.
“Everywhere is a special place that I get offered from,” Alviti said. “I just want the opportunity to play college football. It doesn’t really matter where I go. Any place is going to be a good school.”
Wheaton Warrenville South Class of 2012 athlete Dan Vitale committed to Northwestern on Friday.
Vitale, a 6-4, 220-pounder, was offered a scholarship while attending Northwestern’s camp on Friday and committed on the spot.
“This was his perfect fit,” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said. “That’s his dream school. Dan’s one of our prized student-athletes out of Wheaton Warrenville South from this upcoming class. I think he’s going to be everything Northwestern believes in as student-athlete. H’s just a great fit for them.”
Vitale has played a number of offensive positions for Wheaton Warrenville South, which won the Class 7A state title last season, and could play as a safety, linebacker or superback for Northwestern.
“They’re getting a versatile player,” Muhitch said. “He’s a big kid with great speed. Dan is open to doing both sides of the ball. I think [Northwestern coach] Pat [Fitzgerald] has elevated their play and made Northwestern a primary option for kids who have good grades instead of being a second thought for football.”
Northwestern now has six Class of 2012 recruits, including four in-state recruits.
Rockford Boylan defensive end Dean Lowry has committed to Northwestern.
Lowry, a 6-foot-5, 232-pounder, chose the Wildcats over Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. He had 10 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss last season for Boylan, which won the Class 6A Illinois state championship.
“I think they’re getting an explosive big man who has really good hands, very athletic and has a great get-off,” Boylan coach Dan Appino said. “I think he’s a guy who when he puts on weight and strength is going to be an impact player for them up front.”
With Lowry's commitment, Northwestern has five Class of 2012 recruits, including three in-state prospects.
Plano junior defensive back Joseph Jones has committed to Northwestern.
Jones, who is 6-1 and 200 pounds, sat out the majority of his junior season after breaking his foot in Plano’s third game. He had five tackles, one interception and one pass break-up on the season. He also rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards.
“This is our first Division I athlete since 1971,” Plano athletic director Jim Schmidt said. “We always knew he had the ability. He’s just a gifted athlete. He’s a kid that runs a 4.4 [second] 40 [yard dash], and he’s 6-1 and he can jump.”
Jones is Northwestern’s fourth Class of 2012 recruit and joins Joliet Catholic running back Malin Jones as the Wildcats’ second in-state recruit.
Turner picked the Wildcats over Harvard, Penn and Valparaiso.
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