High School: Kendrick Nunn
Williams, a 6-foot-7, 203-pound small forward, chose the Illini over DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Providence, Purdue and Southern Methodist.
“From my first time on campus, I was just thinking it was the right move,” Williams said by phone on Tuesday morning. “I’ve liked [Illinois] coach [John] Groce on and off the court. It’s also close to my home. My family can watch me play. The Big Ten is also one of the best conferences in the country."
Williams is ranked No. 28 in ESPN’s Class of 2015 and is the highest-ranked recruit Groce has landed since being hired in March of 2012. Illinois has two top-50 recruits committed in the Class of 2014 and signed two top-100 recruits in the Class of 2013.
ESPN recruiting nation scout/analyst Reggie Rankin thought Williams could be an impact player in the Big Ten and was another significant recruit for the Illini.
“I think he’s a wing player that can score,” Rankin said. “He’s got great length. He’s got a terrific mid-range game. He’s active and he’s got tremendous upside. He’ll be an excellent wing scorer in the Big Ten. That’s a tremendous get for them, especially from another instate, Chicago high school power.
“I think that now Groce has been there a year and he’s more established that these things are going to happen more consistently. It may not be a steady stream, but I think he’ll be able to get high-level underclassmen early because they’re established there as a team and are doing well and are projected to do well. They also have an excellent class in play in 2014. I think it’s part of Groce and his staff being more established and working their home turf, which is a tremendous recruiting ground for them.”
Williams was optimistic he could attract other top players from his class and help build Illinois into a NCAA tournament championship contender.
“I can now start recruiting for the other players to kind of join me,” Williams said. “Illinois is rolling really good. With the players they have coming in and more from my year, I think we can make a big run in the NCAA tournament.”
Williams is the third player from Simeon to commit to Groce. He previously signed shooting guard Kendrick Nunn and point guard Jaylon Tate from Simeon. Both are expected to play for the Illini as freshmen this season.
Simeon coach Robert Smith said he was proud to send players to Illinois.
“It’s one thing [former Simeon coach Bob] Hambric talked to me about when I was younger, about keeping guys at home is always big for Simeon, Illinois and the state,” Smith said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. Our basketball is too good in the state to have everyone leave for other schools. That’s my drive to let other people and coaches know to try to keep our guys home. It’s not for everyone. It’s best for some players to go to Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina because it doesn’t fit here, but we should try to make our basketball rich and good in Illinois.”
Williams has made a number of unofficial visits to Illinois during the past few years. His most recent visit came during Illinois’ homecoming on Oct. 26.
Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham was the lead recruiter on Williams.
Illinois is also among the final four schools for Chicago Curie senior forward Cliff Alexander, who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2014 by ESPN. He will announce between DePaul, Illinois, Kansas and Memphis on ESPNU on Nov. 15.
“Williams’ commitment certainly can’t hurt with Alexander,” Rankin said. “It shows another Chicago high-level player has earned their trust to go to Illinois.”
Williams is Illinois’ first Class of 2015 recruit.
Parker and Nunn each were given their Simeon jersey in a glass case prior to their final home game. They joined Derrick Rose, Bobby Simmons and Ben Wilson as the lone players to have their number retired at Simeon.
"We thought about it last year and their legacies -- the possibility of having a fourth state title, both playing for USA, Jabari being national player of the year, maybe being player of the year again, Kendrick committing to Illinois," Simeon coach Robert Smith said on Friday. "Derrick brought Simeon back up, and they kept it up. It's solely on their backs.
"It was something where we thought about bringing them back after they've gone to college, but I just thought it was fitting for the careers. They've left that mark to do it right away."
It's the latest honor for Parker. As a junior, he was named the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, Illinois' Mr. Basketball and the national Gatorade Player of the Year. He was also the 2011 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.
"He's shocked; he's happy they honored him," Parker's father Sonny Parker said on Friday. "He's been through a whole lot being the first freshman to start on varsity. He's had a really good career the last three years. It was a great moment for him to be recognized as one of the great players that came from Simeon and played there."
Nunn has been Parker's wingman the past three seasons and emerged as the team's leader and go-to man when Parker was injured earlier this season.
"In our eyes, we think he's a top Top-15 kid in the country, especially when he's playing well," Smith said of Nunn. "He knew Jabari was banged up, and Kendrick was banged up too, but he decided to go out there and play through it until Jabari came back. He hasn't made any excuses and just played."
Simeon is 18-2 this season and ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings. The Wolverines are undefeated against in-state opponents this season.
There’s not much the CRC was missing. So let’s recap what we learned from the event.
On Saturday, the country's elite will come to Chicago as five of the nation's top squads will face five of Illinois' top ones in the Chicago Elite Classic at UIC. The schedule, team information and more can be found at chicagoeliteclassic.com.
Here are five reasons to be in attendance on Saturday:
Whether he’s a future all-American or has the NBA in his future, that’s difficult to say now. He’s a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who is ranked No. 56 in the country and is the 17th best shooting guard by ESPN and is ranked as high as 36th and low as 60th by other national recruiting sites. Within Illinois, City/Suburban Hoops Report recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen ranks Nunn behind Simeon teammate Jabari Parker, the nation’s No. 1 player, and Belleville East’s Malcolm Hill, another Illinois recruit.
Nunn’s value to Illinois goes well beyond that, though.
For one, he’s the first Chicago recruit for Illinois first-year coach John Groce. It doesn’t hurt that Nunn is also from the state’s premier program. Secondly, Nunn is the type of player who seems to fit into any system and tends to be on winning teams. Simeon and the U17 USA national team can attest to that. Finally, others players appear to like him as a person and teammate.
All of those reasons add up to Nunn possibly being the most important Illini recruit in the past decade.
Nunn released a list of five schools he was considering on Aug. 3 and will visit all of those schools in September and October. He will visit Illinois from Sept. 14-16, Memphis from Sept. 21-23, UCLA from Sept. 28-30, Ohio State from Oct. 5-7 and Marquette from Oct. 12-14, according to Melvin Nunn.
Nunn, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, is ranked No. 54 in the ESPN 100. He's considered the state of Illinois' second-best senior behind his high school teammate Jabari Parker, who is the nation's top-ranked player.
Nunn averaged 15 points for Simeon last season and helped it to its third consecutive state championship. He also helped Team USA win gold in the FIBA U17 World Championship this summer.
Read the entire story.
Okafor had 17 points, including 11 in the first quarter, and eight rebounds in the championship victory. He averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while the United States went 8-0 in the tournament.
Simeon senior forward Jabari Parker and Simeon senior guard Kendrick Nunn also contributed to the United States’ success. Parker, who sat out the semifinal game due to an ankle injury, had 12 points in the championship.
Parham replaces Isaac Chew on Illinois coach John Groce’s staff after Chew departed last month for a position at Marquette. Parham is expected to be the Illini’s lead Chicago recruiter. He is a Chicago native, played at Dunbar High School in Chicago, coached at Phillips High School and Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Public League and has recruited the city and surrounding suburbs the last five years for Illinois State.
“It’s rare a person gets an opportunity to do a do-over,” said Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, whose roster includes nationally-ranked juniors Jahlil Okafor and Paul White. “I think coach Groce and the Illinois program got a do-over. We all liked the Chew hire, but I think the Paris Parham hire is one we love. It’s means nothing negative against Chew. It’s about the relationship we all have with Paris.
“I’m elated. This is one of the few times in Illinois basketball hire history that I can say I’m excited.”
Illinois had the most players represented on the final roster. California had two players, and seven other states had one player.
Parker is ranked the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013 by ESPN. Nunn is ranked No. 55 in the Class of 2012. Okafor is ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2014.
The team will defend USA’s FIBA U17 World Championship title in Lithuania from June 29-July 8. They will also play at the Spain U17 International Invitation in the Canary Islands from June 24-25.
“What we like about this team is our ability to play pressure defense," USA coach Don Showalter said in a statement. “That's really a strong point of this team. That's kind of why we kept some of the players who we felt could really add to that defensive pressure. That's one very positive aspect of this team. Rebounding is something else that's very much a plus for us, and then I really felt good about the progression we made offensively. Just after a couple of days we worked together and I think our offense has really come around, and I feel very comfortable about it. Part of that is due to the familiarity from last year and last October. Our timing is much better. We're reading plays a lot better. I'm real pleased with that as well.
“You spend so much time getting down to your working number, and now it's time to really work on developing a team aspect with these 12 players. You watch them, I know they're a lot more familiar with each other both off the court and on the court. That helps to develop the team attitude that we need to take over to Lithuania.”
The USA team went 8-0 in the FIBA U17 World Championship in 2010. The event is held every other year.
Simeon rising senior guard Kendrick Nunn has yet to trim his list of colleges, but a recent visit to Marquette left a strog impression on him and his family, Nunn’s father said on Thursday.
Nunn, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, is ranked the No. 55 player in the country and second in Illinois in the Class of 2013 by ESPN. He averaged 15 points for Simeon last season and was previously committed to Texas A&M.
Nunn made recent visits to DePaul and Marquette. His father, Melvin Nunn, said their visit to Marquette went especially well.
“Marquette is definitely in there,” Melvin said by phone on Thursday. “Everything Marquette has – their players, they succeed, you’re talking about players, you’re talking about a relationship already there. They’re already in a position to get to that Elite Eight, the Final Four. That recruiting class they got coming in already, it’s already up there for 2013. We’re really, really considering Marquette in that top three (schools.)”
Melvin said his son was considering about 8-10 schools right now and hoped to trim the list to 3-5 schools in July. Nunn is currently considering DePaul, Illinois, Marquette, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Providence, Texas A&M and UCLA.
Melvin thought where Marquette had an advantage over a lot of the schools was it had already proven itself as a winning program.
“You can say DePaul can become a Marquette,” Melvin said. “You talk about Marquette being in the top 15, top 20 in the last 3-4 years. I don’t see them moving out of that any time real soon with the players they already got and the players they already have committed from 2013.
“You really look they’re already in that position, and you’re not even there. It’s someone you should be considering if you want to be in that position when you’re a freshman in college. It’s the same thing when we chose Simeon. Do you want to go to a second-tier school or go to a school to help them continue to go on top? That’s what we’re looking at when picking a school.
“Do you want to have to be the person who has to turn it around? Do you want that pressure?”
That’s also why Illinois could be a difficult sell for Nunn. Melvin said he wasn’t sure new Illinois coach John Groce would have the pieces in place to succeed in a few years.
“It’s something you have to think hard about, especially when you have a choice,” Melvin said. “I think Groce can get it done. If we decided not to go to Illinois, it’s not because we don’t like Illinois, we don’t like Groce. I just don’t know when they can get it done and with who. It’s going to take some 2013 players, some 2014, some 2015.
“We’re talking about three years after he started there. He’s used to winning now.”
Melvin said he was a fan of Groce and Marquette coach Buzz Williams. He likes how both of them coach and develop players.
Nunn was invited to the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 this week, but he decided not to attend because he would have been able to go for two days. He will join the USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Friday in preparation for the FIBA U17 World Championships.
Melvin said they would discuss recruiting when Nunn returns from the world championships.
CIA Bounced -- Twice
Teams that didn't need any extra motivation coming in were in Division D. That grouping includes CIA Bounce of Canada, led by 2012 ESPNHS National Sophomore of the Year Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.). CIA Bounce entered the final session as the only unbeaten team with a 14-0 record, but lost its first two games this weekend.
Meanstreets (Ill.), which entered with a 12-2 record, recorded a 66-49 victory over the Canadian team behind a 22-point, seven-rebound performance from Kendrick Nunn of Simeon (Chicago). The 6-foot-2 guard used explosive drives to break down CIA's defense.
Read the entire story, which includes a Mac Irvin Fire update, here.
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's shadow continues to loom over Simeon’s basketball program.
Simeon coach Robert Smith doesn’t let his 2011-12 team forget what Rose and his teammates did when they were wearing blue and gold earlier this century. If the current Wolverines are ever going to impress Smith, they need to exceed what Rose and company accomplished.
On Wednesday, Smith was again happy, but not ecstatic. While No. 1 Simeon defeated No. 11 Bogan 68-57 in a matchup of Red-West unbeatens, Smith still wasn’t completely satisfied with his team’s play.
“No, I don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet. I hope it comes. It would be scary if we could get firing on all cylinders and play all four quarters.”
For a half Wednesday, Simeon was at full tilt.
Simeon opened the game playing aggressive defense and contesting every Bogan attempt. After each Bogan miss, the Wolverines snatched the rebound, pushed the ball other way and quickly got the ball into the hoop.
Before five minutes had passed, Simeon already held a 16-3 lead. The Wolverines went up by as many as 15 points in the first quarter and extended it to a 34-12 advantage by halftime.
“That’s a good team,” Smith said. “They can shoot 3-pointers. We just wanted to get out in front and build a cushion before they started making them.”
From the other bench, Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin couldn’t believe his eyes. The Bengals were playing their worst basketball at the worst time. They shot 4-of-29 from the field and 3-of-13 from the free-throw line in the first half.
Goodwin thought his team was possibly intimidated by the packed crowd at Simeon.
“We didn’t play Bogan basketball in the first half,” said Goodwin, whose team fell to 19-2 and 7-1. “You got to hit free throws to beat a good basketball team. In the second half, we played Bogan basketball.”
Bogan was able to make it interesting in the final two quarters. The Bengals began taking the ball to the hoop for easy buckets and then went back to their outside shooting, which finally began to work.
Behind 10 points from Devonte Smith and two 3-pointers by Kendall Wesley, Bogan outscored Simeon 27-16 in the third quarter and cut the lead to 11.
In the end, though, the deficit was too much to make up. Simeon wasn’t going to collapse that far as Kendrick Nunn and Steve Taylor combined for 12 fourth-quarter points to seal the win.
Nunn, Taylor, Jabari Parker and Jaleni Neely each took turns stepping up for Simeon. Parker finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Nunn had 20 points and eight rebounds. Neely had 11 points and Taylor had 10 points and seven rebounds.
“They each came through with big plays,” Smith said. “That’s nice to have.”
Smith had a team-high 13 points and nine rebounds for Bogan. Ronnell Buckner and Donte Jackson contributed 11 points each.