The top recruiting steals out of Illinois, part two

The top recruiting steals out of Illinois, part two

Naperville Central’s Drew Crawford puts up two points over Willowbrook. | Sun-Times file photo

These players went on to have college careers that vastly exceeded the expectations of evaluators.

Little did I know my story published Tuesday morning on the top recruiting steals over the past 20 years would produce hours of conversation and text messages with college coaches throughout the day.

The hot topic led to a lot of conversation. With all the recruiting battles and evaluations of players over the years in this state, which involved so many different college coaches, we reminisced about those steals. That led to talk about all the busts as well –– mine and theirs –– and the basketball back-and-forth banter was plentiful.

There was such an immediate reaction to the story, including mentions of names that were certainly on my short list, that I decided to provide an addendum to that story.

We all need a little more basketball right now don’t we?

All of the following players were considered for the initial list during this massive research project. Here are 12 more sleepers since 2000.

Cedrick Banks, Westinghouse (UIC) • Class of 2000

Westinghouse’s Cedrick Banks slam dunks against Thornridge at the Proviso West tournament.Sun-Times file photo
Westinghouse’s Cedrick Banks slam dunks against Thornridge at the Proviso West tournament.

The consensus 20 years ago was that the Westinghouse star was a recruiting steal the day he signed with coach Jimmy Collins and the Flames. After all, Banks was the Sun-Times Player of the Year after Westinghouse finished second in the state in 2000.

He lived up to the “recruiting steal” label and then some.

After sitting out a year due to academics, the sleek 6-3 lefty guard became one of the all-time greats at UIC –– and the leading scorer in program history with 2,097 points. Plus, he was the fuel for two UIC teams that reached the NCAA Tournament.

Jason Kalsow, Huntley (Wisconsin-Stevens Point) • Class of 2001

Huntley’s Jason Kalsow.Sun-Times file photo
Huntley’s Jason Kalsow.

Say what? Who?

There is room for a small college steal.

No one knew Kalsow. There were Division III schools that weren’t even aware of the vastly under-recruited point-forward out of Huntley. All he did was end up being arguably the biggest small college recruiting steal out of Illinois in 20 years.

In addition to being the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in program history at Stevens-Point, he led the Pioneers to a pair of NCAA Division III titles (2004 and 2005), hitting a buzzer-beater in the 2004 title game. Kalsow was the Division III National Player of the Year as a senior. The two-time All-American was also named to the D3hoops All-Decade Team.

Reggie Hamilton, Thornwood (UMKC/Oakland) • Class of 2007

Thornwood’s Reggie Hamilton drives around Washington’s Mario Little.Sun-Times file photo
Thornwood’s Reggie Hamilton drives around Washington’s Mario Little.

How about another way-off-the-radar player? The Thornwood guard was just that after receiving so little attention as a college prospect.

This should grab your attention, though: Hamilton led the country in scoring with 26.2 points a game in his senior year of college. The next two players after Hamilton on that list were Weber State’s Damian Lillard and Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Wow.

Initially he landed at UMKC and made an immediate impact as a freshman and sophomore with 11.7 and 12.6 points a game, respectively. He then transferred to Oakland and torched the Summit League.

After sitting out his transfer year, Hamilton averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 assists a game as a junior before his explosive senior season.

Drew Crawford, Naperville Central (Northwestern) • Class of 2009

Naperville Central’s Drew Crawford puts up two points over Willowbrook.Sun-Times file photo
Naperville Central’s Drew Crawford puts up two points over Willowbrook.

He was certainly a coveted prospect with a bundle of offers overall. But people forget how little he was recruited by high-major programs prior to his senior year.

ESPN ranked the three-star Crawford No. 72 in its rankings –– not the 72nd best player but the 72nd best shooting guard in the country.

Crawford, who was the City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year in 2009, committed to Northwestern while Oklahoma State and Wake Forest were the other high-majors on board.

The 6-5 guard proved to be a steal for Northwestern, finishing as the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,920. He’s seventh all-time in rebounds, made the fourth most three-pointers in Wildcats history and led NU to a pair of 20-win seasons.

Dave Dudzinski, Kaneland (Holy Cross) • Class of 2010

Kaneland big man Dave Dudzinski dunks against Geneva at the United Center.Sun-Times file photo
Kaneland big man Dave Dudzinski dunks against Geneva at the United Center.

The Class of 2010 was loaded. There were a dozen high-major recruits and 50-plus players in the class that ultimately played Division I basketball. Dudzinski checked in at No. 29 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report player rankings.

The 6-9 forward chose Holy Cross over Loyola and proved to be a tremendous steal, finishing his career with 1,366 points and 698 rebounds in four years. Dudzinski was recently named as one of the top five players of the decade at Holy Cross.

Julius Brown, Hillcrest (Toledo) • Class of 2011

Hillcrest’s Julius Brown gets around Devante York of Corliss.Sun-Times file photo
Hillcrest’s Julius Brown gets around Devante York of Corliss.

He was overlooked and under-appreciated at Hillcrest, where as a junior the point guard led the Hawks to a state championship. Many college coaches were scared off by his 5-10 height, yet Brown dazzled at Toledo.

He was the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and a two-time All-MAC selection. He finished his career as the third all-time leading scorer (1,838 career points) in Toledo history and obliterated the school record for most career assists (694).

Derrick Marks, Plainfield Central (Boise State) • Class of 2011

Plainfield Central’s Derrick Marks drives to the basket around Plainfield South’s Zach Singrabe.Sun-Times file photo
Plainfield Central’s Derrick Marks drives to the basket around Plainfield South’s Zach Singrabe.

The big, physical 6-3 guard was a bit of a forgotten man once he went out wests. But he tore it up, finishing with nearly 2,000 career points. More importantly, Marks led Boise State to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths and three 20-plus win seasons.

As a senior he was the Mountain West Conference’s Player of the Year. He finished as the eighth all-time leading scorer in history and the second all-time scorer in Boise State history.

Abdel Nader, Niles North (Northern Illinois/Iowa State) • Class of 2011

The Blue Crew, the Warren student section, focuses their attentions on Niles North’s Abdel Nader.Sun-Times file photo
The Blue Crew, the Warren student section, focuses their attentions on Niles North’s Abdel Nader.

The No. 10 ranked player in the Class of 2011, one of the better classes this state has produced in the last 20 years, is one of the few from the class that reached the NBA. But before that he was a top 10 player in a loaded class that signed with Northern Illinois.

He played two years in DeKalb, averaging 10.4 points as a freshman and 13.1 points as a sophomore. He departed after two years, transferring to Iowa State, where he was a role player as a junior and a starter as a senior, putting up 12.9 points and five rebounds a game.

Nader spent one season with the Boston Celtics and the past two with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was just recently traded to the Phoenix Suns.

Matt Mooney, Notre Dame (Air Force/South Dakota State/Texas Tech) • Class of 2014

Notre Dame’s Matt Mooney tries to push past St. Charles North’s Quinten Payne.Sun-Times file photo
Notre Dame’s Matt Mooney tries to push past St. Charles North’s Quinten Payne.

This is a player who had little to nothing going on the recruiting front. He was missed by the Hoops Report and had one Division I offer. But after a year at Air Force, where he averaged 19 minutes a game as a freshman, he transferred to South Dakota and his career took off while proving to be an absolute Summit League steal.

Mooney averaged 18.6 points a game as a sophomore and 18.7 points a game as a junior before moving on again, this time as a grad transfer to Texas Tech. It was there where he became a big name, putting up 11.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists for a team that reached the Final Four and lost to Virginia in the national championship game.

Tyler Hall, Rock Island (Montana State) • Class of 2015

Following an impressive July just before his senior year at Rock Island, the City/Suburban Hoops Report was completely on board while college coaches remained hesitant to a degree.

The smooth 6-3 guard was the Hoops Report’s No. 16 ranked prospect who ended up playing at a remote place in the Big Sky Conference, bypassing a handful of bigger offers, including Nevada, Northern Iowa, Ball State and Western Michigan.

He sizzled as a freshman with 18.6 points a game and then put up an eye-popping 23.1 points a game as a sophomore. The points kept coming and after four years he graduated as the school’s –– and conference’s –– all-time leading scorer. He finished with a whopping 2,518 career points. He also knocked down 431 career three-pointers while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Tyler Seibring, Normal (Elon) • Class of 2015

Normal’s Tyler Seibring (33) passed the ball under the basket against Jalen Brunson (15) of Stevenson.Sun-Times file photo
Normal’s Tyler Seibring (33) passed the ball under the basket against Jalen Brunson (15) of Stevenson.

A very overlooked player in the Class of 2015 due to the fact college coaches could not look past the lack of the athleticism in the sweet-shooting 6-9 big man. Seibring’s options were limited at the Division I level coming out of high school, but what an underrated and decorated career he put together at Elon.

A consistent scorer all four years –– 9.8 points a game as a freshman was followed by 14.4 points, 15.4 points and 16.5 points over the next three seasons –– Seibring was the rare stretch 5-man. He shot over 40 percent from three and made 278 three-pointers in his career.

He was a three-time all-conference performer in the Colonial Athletic Association and finished sixth all-time in scoring and 10th all-time in rebounding at Elon.

Mike Smith, Fenwick (Columbia) • Class of 2016

Mike Smith (21) of Fenwick runs his offense against Hillcrest.Sun-Times file photo
Mike Smith (21) of Fenwick runs his offense against Hillcrest.

For a player like Smith to land in the Ivy League after the senior season he put together at Fenwick goes without saying. But then you look at the numbers and production of the 5-10 point guard while there and the sleeper label becomes even more obvious.

Smith lit it up in three-plus years at Columbia, including averaging 22.8 points and 4.5 assists a game last season. He piled up 1,653 points in his career with a year of eligibility remaining. He graduated and is now playing at Michigan for his final season.

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