NCAA tournament lacks Illinois teams, not Illinois players
Illinois has 13 Division I college basketball teams eligible for the NCAA tournament.
One of them, the Bradley Braves (20-14) managed to qualify this year. And it isn’t expected to last, facing highly favored two seed Michigan State at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.
But that doesn’t mean Illinois partisans will be left with nothing more for which to cheer.
A Prairie State Wire analysis of NCAA rosters counts 49 Illinois natives on the 68 qualifiers. That’s 43 if you subtract walk-ons.
They include some of the premier players in college basketball on the top-ranked teams in the country, all of whom spurned schools here to go elsewhere.
Illinois natives are starters or major contributors for 21 teams, including Gonzaga, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas Tech, Purdue, Kansas, Florida State, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Nevada, Wofford, Oklahoma, Iowa, St. Louis, Oregon, Vermont, Colgate, Bradley, Iona, Fairleigh Dickinson, and North Carolina Central.
Chicago native and Simeon High School graduate Zach Norvell Jr. averages 15.3 points per game for top-seed Gonzaga, located 1,785 miles away from the South Side, in Spokane, Washington. He was offered a scholarship by the University of Illinois, but didn’t consider the school. He picked Gonzaga over Iowa State, Georgetown and Florida State.
Fellow Simeon graduate Talen Horton-Tucker is a former Chicago-area prep standout playing for Iowa State, which won the Big 12 Championship game and is matched up with Ohio State Friday night.
Horton-Tucker, who chose Ames, Iowa over Champaign-Urbana, scored a season-high 26 points in Iowa State’s 84-68 victory over the Illini back in November.
But the most acclaimed Illinois natives playing in the NCAAs this year weren’t even recruited by Illinois.
Admiral Schofield of Zion, a 6-foot-6 forward who starred for Zion-Benton High School in Lake County, earned First Team All Southeastern Conference honors this year, leading the University of Tennessee to the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row. Schofield is now a “legend” in Knoxville, one of the most decorated players in program history.
Same goes for 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ of Rockridge High School in Rock Island County. Also a senior, he picked the University of Wisconsin over Green Bay and Milwaukee. Happ earned all Big Ten First Team Honors and was a finalist last year for the John Wooden Award, which goes to the nation’s top player.
Jordan Caroline grew up in Champaign and attended Central High School, the progeny of a University of Illinois legend, Simeon Rice. His grandfather, J.C. Caroline, was a running back for the Illini and played a decade with the Bears.
Illinois was his dream school, but it didn’t offer him a scholarship. So he went to Nevada, where the senior is finishing up a career as a two-year, first team all Mountain West Conference selection, leading the Wolf Pack to three straight NCAA appearances.
Matt Mooney of Texas Tech had just one scholarship offer out of Niles Notre Dame High School-- Air Force. He transferred to South Dakota and earned Mid-Major All-American honors, then went to Lubbock as a graduate transfer. The 6-foot-3 guard earned a starting role for the Red Raiders and averaged 11 points per game.
Illinois Basketball Players in the 2019 NCAA Tournament
|Antoine Pittman||Rockford Auburn||Bradley|
|Armon Brummett||Decatur MacArthur||Bradley|
|Peter Hanley||Peoria Notre Dame||Bradley|
|Gabe Grant||Chicago Mt. Carmel||Buffalo|
|Brendan Besser||Chicago Latin||Duke|
|Elyjah Williams||Evanston||Farleigh Dickinson|
|David Nichols||Chicago Mt. Carmel||Florida State|
|Zach Norvell, Jr.||Chicago Simeon||Gonzaga|
|Tajuan Agee||Hyde Park||Iona|
|Isaiah Moss||Chicago Simeon||Iowa|
|Zion Griffin||Hinsdale South||Iowa State|
|George Conditt IV||Chicago Corliss||Iowa State|
|Talen Horton-Tucker||Chicago Simeon||Iowa State|
|Prentiss Nixon||Bolingbrook||Iowa State|
|Charlie Moore||Chicago Morgan Park||Kansas|
|Austin Trice||Chicago Hales Franciscan||Kansas State|
|Ed Morrow||Chicago Simeon||Marquette|
|Charles Matthews||Chicago St. Rita||Michigan|
|Jack Hoiberg||Hinsdale Central||Michigan State|
|Brock Stull||Boylan Catholic||Minnesota|
|Raseen Davis||N/A||NC Central|
|Jordan Caroline||Champaign Central||Nevada|
|Joey Lane||Deerfield||Ohio State|
|Miles Reynolds||Chicago Whitney Young||Oklahoma|
|Paul White||Chicago Whitney Young||Oregon|
|Francis Okoro||Normal West||Oregon|
|Kyle King||St. Charles North||Purdue|
|Evan Boudreaux||Lake Forest||Purdue|
|Trevion Williams||Chicago Mt. Carmel||Purdue|
|Jordan Goodwin||Belleville Althoff||St. Louis|
|Brandon Courtney||Trenton Wesclin||St. Louis|
|Demarius Jacobs||Chicago Uplift||St. Louis|
|Jack Raboin||Mattoon||St. Louis|
|Matt Mooney||Niles Notre Dame||Texas Tech|
|Skyler Nash||Chicago Gould Academy||Vermont|
|Carter Higginbottom||Chicago St. Ignatius||Wisconsin|
|Trevor Stumpe||Plainfield North||Wofford|
|Messiah Jones||Chicago Simeon||Wofford|
|Jameel Alausa||Chicago Lab||Yale|
Organizations in this Story
Bradley University • Central High School • NCAA • Notre Dame College Prep Catholic High School (Niles, IL) • Rock Island Milan School • Rockridge High School • Simeon High School • Zion Benton High School