summer recruitment watch

CHAMPAIGN — Life became a little more hectic this spring for Iman Shumpert, an Oak Park-River Forest High School junior who found himself quickly climbing the national basketball recruiting rankings.

“For a second, it got out of control and it was no fun at all,’’ Shumpert said. “Now, it’s slowing down a little more. I’ve got an idea what I’m looking for. But people are always around me. I get a lot of text messages, a whole lot of letters.’’

Well before the rest of the nation took notice, Illinois coach Bruce Weber had his eyes on Shumpert, who is one of numerous high-level targets for Illini recruiters this summer.

Shumpert’s basketball career jumped into the fast lane this spring, when the little-known athletic combo guard impressed national recruiting analysts. After an elbow injury slowed him during much of his high school season last winter, Shumpert’s stock skyrocketed.

Ranked out of the top 100 when the spring AAU season began, Shumpert (his first name is pronounced EEE-mahn) heads into the summer ranked No. 15 nationally among incoming high school seniors by has Shumpert rated at No. 41.

“He’s been phenomenal all spring,’’ said Dave Telep, national recruiting analyst for “He’s a big, legitimate combo guard who I think may have a long-term future as a point guard. He’s shot the ball well and has a tremendous basketball IQ.

“He’s a case study in being a late bloomer. He’s hitting his stride now. Some kids hit their strides early on. He couldn’t be hitting it at a better time. There’s no looking back now.’’

Shumpert’s recruitment began primarily with interest from Missouri Valley Conference schools, including Bradley. But Big Ten, ACC and Big East programs now hound him. Since his reputation grew, Shumpert 1) speaks primarily to head coaches now, and 2) gets more respect on the court.

“Once my name got out there, you get more respect, and things open up,’’ Shumpert said. “You get respect. People don’t guard you as tight. They don’t want to get beat.’’

Shumpert said he is comfortable with relationships with Weber, Marquette’s Tom Crean, Bradley’s Jim Les, Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt and Clemson’s Oliver Purnell. He wants to build a better relationship with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey.

Shumpert won’t provide a list of schools that interest him, but Duke, North Carolina, Florida and UCLA began making contact since Shumpert’s stock jumped.

“I got to know of lot of (head coaches) with them coming to open gym,’’ Shumpert said. “I got used to playing in front of them. When I saw them this spring, it didn’t have much affect on me. I can play through it without looking to the crowd.’’

Shumpert made unofficial visits to Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Bradley and Notre Dame, he said. He would like to visit Marquette, Georgia Tech and Clemson. He hopes to have five finalists by the end of the summer.

Among other players who will be watched by Illini coaches in the summer AAU season are Chicago Washington point forward DeAndre Liggins (a skilled passer for a big man) and Mason County (Ky.) forward Darius Miller.

The Illini also will keep an eye on Chicago Farragut center Michael Dunigan, who has risen to No. 21 in the national rankings; Washington (Mo.) shooting guard Michael Suggs; and Chicago Hales Franciscan guard Matthew Humphrey.

Illinois has two scholarships to offer for the class of 2008 (a third would be available if redshirt freshman forward CJ Jackson plays football this fall).



John Supinie can be reached at 377-1977 or For more Illini coverage, read his Illini Talk blog at