The first player Chris Collins convinced to verbally commit to Northwestern kept reiterating one important message in the wake of yesterday’s news. “I will be a big recruiter for Northwestern,” Law told the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein. “I’ll get some guys.” That’s a confident prediction; Law doesn’t merely promise to do his due diligence in trying to sway some of NU's 2014 targets. He pledges to actually convince not just one prospect but multiple prospects to follow his lead. Here are three players from the state of Illinois Northwestern, with the help of Law, hopes to add to its now-populated 2014 recruiting class. This is not an exhaustive list (Paul White, Darreon Redick and Scott Lindsey are other names to consider) – the following three players are simply some of Northwestern’s more coveted local targets that, whether or not Law influences their respective college choices, could eventually end up in purple.
Landing a point guard to lead his motion offense in the early years of Collins’ tenure is something he and his staff have emphasized in 2014. Bartley might be the best candidate. After he visited campus in late May, he told InsideNU the Wildcats were his “top offer,” and plans to make a return visit in the Fall. Bartley has 10 offers, including Oklahoma State and Illinois State, and has been in contact with Iowa and Missouri. The idea of becoming a building block of Collins’ turnaround in Evanston is a big selling point for Bartley, and his comments to various outlets strongly recommend NU’s first year coach’s basketball pedigree. “It’s very humbling to be recruited by someone with so many accomplishments and who has coached so many great players. He’s definitely the type of guy you want to play for,” he said.
A history of coaching professional players is one of the most important aspects of Collins’ recruiting pitch. His vision for the 2014 class as a lynchpin in the larger context of Northwestern’s mostly forgettable basketball existence, with a dynamic point guard leading the way, arguably just as important (if not more). Bartley is fascinated by the thought, and continues to impress coaches with his length (6-foot-4) and playmaking at point guard. There is a strong chance he finishes the crucial July evaluation period with a few more high major offers. The Wildcats are definitely among his favorites right now; they might well be his No. 1 school, full stop. Maintaining that status over the summer months as Bartley showcases his game in front of interested coaches, many of whom may extend offers, is one of Collins and his staff’s biggest recruiting priorities.
School: Decatur, Macarthur (IL)
AAU: Peoria Irish
Other offers: Bradley, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma State, South Dakota State, Tennessee-Martin, William & Mary
Profiles: Scout, Rivals
Notes: Called NU his “top offer” after visit; Impressed by Collins, who extended the offer; Could have more offers soon, as Oklahoma State, NU, Harvard, St. Louis, Stanford and Cornell all saw him in mid-April
On Chicago’s Mac Irvin Fire, populated by the likes of five-star big men Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander, along with sophomore guards Jalen Brunson and Marcus LoVett, embossing your own profile on the AAU circuit isn’t quite so simple. Cunningham has worked to develop his perimeter game throughout his recruitment – not only because Alexander and Okafor anchor the low-block and leave little room for Cunningham to exert his own low-post influence, but for the sake of preparing himself, position-wise, for the college game, where he is likely to play at the 3. The process of ingraining small forward skills and habits into his game is an ongoing development, but Cunninham has already turned some heads with his versatility and scoring ability, including a 29-point effort against Next Level Performance at the Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam in May.
An offer list approximation of 12 (Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Carolina, UMass, Missouri, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Bradley, DePaul and St. John’s; this list may not include all of Cunningham’s offers. It’s a product of culling disparate lists from various general recruiting sites.) won’t stay at that number through the summer. Cunningham should garner more interest from high major programs over the next few months – Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, and Illinois have all shown interest – and could become a more competitive proposition as Northwestern turns on the full court press to land his services in 2014. Cunningham is high on the Wildcats and will likely keep them among his favorites into the fall.
School: Morgan Park (IL)
AAU: Mac Irvin Fire
Other offers: Bradley, DePaul, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina
Profiles: Scout, Rivals
Notes: Top Chicago area player who likes NU; Knows NU commit Vic Law
Like all of Northwestern’s 2014 in-state targets, Ulis views the Wildcats as a program he, as a true point guard with the skills and creative intuition to play early in his college career, could help establish as a more consistent Big Ten entity. He took a short visit to Northwestern Sunday and left even more impressed by everything Collins has pitched throughout his recruitment. Ulis has identified a top-seven list: DePaul, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, USC. Among those, Michigan State and Iowa seem to be the most likely landing spots at this point: Ulis has repeatedly called Michigan State his “dream school”; the Hawkeyes are a rising program that have prioritized Ulis as their top point guard target in 2014 (MSU is also pursuing top-ranked PG Tyus Jones, along with four-star 2015 prospect Eric Davis). This tweet from an MSU beat writer last month is an instructive first-hand valuation of where Ulis stands with the Hawkeyes.
It is not known when Ulis will make his decision. He has yet to visit Florida State and USC, and has indicated he plans to use two of his four remaining official visits to do so. That doesn’t mean he won’t pull the trigger before then; Ulis told Rivals just last week he will commit “ […] whenever I feel like I found a home.” Getting Ulis would give the Wildcats the creative engine they need to drive their anticipated resurgence under Collins, and Law is reportedly close enough with Ulis to, at the barest of minimums, make the Marian Catholic point guard think harder about staying close to home. A consensus top-50 player like Ulis would be seen as an even more important symbolic step in Northwestern’s recruiting rise, but unless Law’s decision (and words) can vault the Wildcats ahead of the Spartans and Hawkeyes, Northwestern may fall out of Ulis’s final considerations. The Wildcats have some ground to make up, and an indefinite timeline in which to make it.
School: Marian Catholic (IL)
Other offers: Colorado State, DePaul, Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Oregon State, Purdue, Illinois-Chicago, USC
Profiles: Scout, Rivals
Notes: Has NU in top 7 with DePaul, Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, USC; Rapidly gaining momentum in recruiting and has added a number of solid offers recently; NU and USC offered on April 24; Said he likes what NU has to offer; NU definitely in the running but reports say Iowa and MSU could be tough to beat
Basketball recruiting is a fluid process. Players’ interest in certain schools wax and wane over time. One coach’s decision not to show up for an important AAU event can lower that school’s positioning on a given prospect’s list, just as easily as a hot shooting streak can put a player’s recruitment in a whole different light. The above names are three players Northwestern is vying hard for in 2014, and after landing Law in early July, the process could heat up quickly. Nailing down the first commitment was a huge first step. It establishes Northwestern’s credibility amongst other highly rated local prospects and will allow Law to serve as a fulcrum of NU’s recruiting efforts going forward. He has vowed to assist Collins and his staff in the coming months, and recruiting efforts aside, Law's decision spoke volumes about what Collins is building in Evanston.