For the first time since Dee BrownIllinois basketball landed a five-star rookie. skyy clark — the No. 27 prospect for the Class of 2022 — committed to Illinois Thursday live on ESPNU, giving a big late boost to an Illini recruiting class that now ranks among the top 10 classes nationally .
Clark, who suffered a torn ACL last year, originally signed with Kentucky but received a discharge from his national letter of intent in early March. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard chose Illinois over Louisville, USC, Maryland, Tennessee and Washington, among other options he considered this spring.
Illinois assistant coach Tim Anderson led the Illini’s efforts with Clark, the son of the former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Kenny Clark.
Clark said of his involvement on ESPNU: “There are a lot of them. It’s a proven winning program. Coach Underwood, I like his style of play. I like the way he pushes his guys, and Coach Tim, he’s like an uncle for me. He was my first scholarship when I went to DePaul, and he’s been right there with me since day one, as far as I can remember. The last thing for me was Coach Fletch [strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher]. I feel like getting out of the ACL, I really haven’t regained my full athleticism, so I feel like he’s really going to bring me back to my pre-injury self.
“[I’ll bring] really just win. Winning is my greatest thing. I want to win. I want to go as far as possible, go as far as possible in the tournament and do everything to make the fans and my teammates happy. Really this home visit which [Underwood] came a few weeks ago really just sold to me. He was probably home for about two or three hours and we had a great conversation about everything. He said he was going to push me, and that’s what I like. I know he’s going to make me great.”
Why is this important: Illinois now has the No. 8 recruiting class nationally, the highest-ranked Illini recruiting class in the past two decades. But more importantly, Clark with the incoming recruits of 2022 Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris helps the Illini rebuild the backcourt, where Illinois has lost senior starters Thirty Frazier and Alphonse Plummer and 2021 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year André Curbelowho entered the transfer portal after a tumultuous second season.
What this means: The Illini are likely getting more talented and bigger at guard, but they will be very young and inexperienced. Clark, a big-body guard who is a dynamic playmaker who can score at all three levels complements Epps – a talented bucket-getter – and is a potentially formidable pair for the next few years. Illinois is still looking in the transfer gate for an experienced guard to help bolster the backcourt further.
Moreover, Brad Underwood continues to raise the standard for Illinois basketball. A year ago, he lost his entire coaching staff after No. 1-seeded Illinois suffered a disappointing exit from the NCAA Tournament in the second round. A year later, with a revamped staff, he won the program’s first share of a Big Ten regular-season championship in 17 years, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and put together the Illinois basketball’s highest-ranked recruiting class in two decades. . Illinois basketball is in a good place.
Scouting report from 247Sports National recruiting analyst Eric Bossi: “Any updated scouting report on Clark should start by mentioning that he’s still hitting 100%. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament last spring and was able to return to the ground in January. how quickly he was able to recover and get back into shape is remarkable in that no one is able to do that without an impressive work ethic and a commitment to hard work.
“While Clark was able to make a quick return to the ground, he was understandably rusty. On his return, Clark lacked some of the explosion at the rim and the ability to shake off rebound defenders that he had before the injury. Hopefully that will come back over time. Clark has always had good strength and he came back from injury stronger than ever and that strength allows him to play non-contact and should serve him well when he will make the transition to university.
“At this point in his development, it’s probably fair to classify Clark as more of a playmaker than a traditional playmaker. When at his best, he attacks downhill, uses his dangerous jump shot and deep reach, and plays aggressively on the attacking side. He’s certainly a capable playmaker for others, but when that becomes the sole focus of his game, he can be a little too passive in finding his own offense. The stones of his game are his tight ball handling and attacking creativity.