Highlights of North Central's Kris Wilkes (31) at the Under Armour event in Fishers April 22-24.
IU, Illinois and UCLA wait for North Central star's pick
The clock is ticking. Kris Wilkes knows it. He can hear it in his head.
“Each day that goes by, you lose,” Wilkes said. “It gets closer to that time.”
It isn’t exactly impending doom. But a recruiting decision, especially one as high profile as that of the 6-8 North Central basketball star, can weigh heavily on a teenage mind. There are three fan bases waiting for an answer. One, just down the road in Bloomington, is especially eager to celebrate a big in-state recruiting victory.
Wilkes, ranked as the No. 18 prospect nationally in the 2017 class on the 247sports composite,narrowed his list last week to Illinois, Indiana and UCLA. The Hoosiers haven’t secured a commitment from the IndyStar Mr. Basketball winner since Washington’s Cody Zeller, the 2011 winner, picked IU over Butler and North Carolina.
Wilkes figures to be a favorite to win the award going into the season. His Twitter mentions are filled with Indiana fans relaying how much they’d like to see the Hoosiers end that streak without a Mr. Basketball winner.
“I know,” Wilkes said. “I hear from (Indiana fans) all the time. But I have to decide where the best place is for me. Even if you don’t have as many fans, if that’s where you want to go, then that’s where you should go.”
The early signing period for college basketball runs from Nov. 9-16, meaning Wilkes is inside of a month to a decision date. And he may use all of that time.
“Hopefully early November,” Wilkes said of a timeline on his commitment. “I’m trying to commit and maybe sign then. I’m trying to get it that way, but it’s hard. I love all three of the schools. It’s going to come down to the little bitty things at the end.”
Plans for Wilkes to take official visits to UConn and Xavier were canceled after he finished official visits to Illinois, UCLA and Indiana. Wilkes said it became clear that it would be beneficial for himself and the schools recruiting him to cut the list down to those three.
After a recent run of commitments, 62 of the top 100 prospects on the 247sports composite have now decided, though that includes just four of the top 20.
“I started seeing more and more people commit,” Wilkes said of cutting his list. “You don’t want to be the last one and get screwed over or anything. So I wanted to cut it to three and let (the other schools) find who they need to find, and I can just start focusing in.”
While there’s a lot of time left and plenty of recruits still uncommitted, Illinois (third by 247sports) and UCLA (fifth) currently have two of the top recruiting classes for 2017. The centerpiece of Illinois’ current four-player class is 6-10 Jeremiah Tilmon of East St. Louis, Ill. UCLA has three commits in its class — all from California — led by 6-foot point guard Jaylen Hands.
Indiana’s class has three players after 6-7 forward Justin Smith and 6-10 forward Clifton Moore pledged in the past three weeks. Georgia guard Al Durham committed last October.
There are in-state ties on both out-of-state schools. Illinois coach John Groce is a Danville native and played at Taylor University. He successfully recruited Jalen Coleman-Lands, an Indianapolis native who attended Cathedral for two years before transferring to La Lumiere. Coleman averaged 10.2 points as a freshman.
UCLA is coached by Steve Alford, the 1983 Mr. Basketball at New Castle and former Indiana star. Assistant Ed Schilling led Park Tudor to Class 2A state titles in 2011 and ’12.
Wilkes was reminded of the connection between his finalists when he was in coach Tom Crean’s office during his official visit to Indiana two weeks ago.
“It was funny when I was at IU,” Wilkes said. “I saw a little picture on Tom Crean’s wall and (Alford) was in it. I took a picture of it and sent it to him.”
Indiana has been in the mix the longest for Wilkes.
“I try to make a list with the pros and cons,” Wilkes said. “Who will help me, who will benefit me. Those sorts of things. I keep going over it every day.”
Asked for his thoughts on all three schools:
>> On Illinois: “It’s like a family. All the coaches and players get along really well together. They play for each other and play hard. That’s what sticks out most to me.”
>> On UCLA: “It’s definitely a different area. It’s a pro town, where there’s not a focus on one sport. It’s a good place to be. They play hard and have a fast pace that I’m used to playing.”
>> On Indiana: “I’ll always have love for the Hoosiers. I’ve been going down there since the fourth grade. When I went on that official visit, it showed me more. I got to see more of campus and see some of the new areas down there on campus. That was good. I’m used to just going down there for basketball and going home.”
As far as distance from home, UCLA is the outlier.
“That’s probably one of the negatives,” Wilkes said. “There’s negatives and positives for all of them, though.”
Wilkes is preparing for his senior season with four goals in mind. Two — winning the Marion County tournament and a state title — are team-related. The other two — being named Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American — are individual goals he hopes to attain.
Before then, he has a decision to make. It won’t be easy.
“At different times, I think it’s one over the others,” he said. “It’s just hard. They are all good schools. Getting it down to three was hard enough. Telling coaches you aren’t going to go there, that’s a pretty hard thing to do.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.