Basketball Recruiting - Potential 2022 Bigs Scenarios

Connor Cagley, IlliniGuys Basketball Writer

September 8, 2021

Disclaimer: This article is based on my own research on this recruiting class. This research included other teams' recruiting boards, with a focus on the information of their own experts (the Brad Sturdy of these sites). No contact with the coaching staff has occurred during the research for this article.

What happens with Illinois' big man recruiting revolves around the decision of Cam Corhen. Similar to Cam Whitmore, Corhen visited for the Nebraska football game. He has been considered as an Illinois lean for a while now, but after his recent visit to Florida State there seems to be a perception among the basketball media that there is less certainty that Illinois will win his pick. Rounding out his top 3 is LSU - another strong contender. A visit there would send a signal of his interest.  Hopefully, Chester Frazier's relationship with Corhen can help Illinois prevail.

Illinois' interest in Corhen rests on his ability to play the 4 or 5. This makes him unique in this class and without this combination, Illinois will have a decision to make: will they want a true center or a power forward?

Malique Ewen courtesy Hoopseen.com

If they lean toward securing a center, then there are three options, each having their own strengths and weaknesses: Jaxon Kohler, Malique Ewin, and Christ Essandoko.

  • Kohler has the highest floor, and most polished offensive game. He's not as good at protecting the rim, but makes up for it through volume scoring on the other end. How deep Illinois can get in on his recruitment remains to be seen as he has officially visited or plans to visit Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, and USC.
  • Ewin has the highest ceiling, but lacks consistency and would benefit from adding some hustle to his game. He's a good defender in space and for a center he shows surprising touch as a ball handler. Not much is known on who is currently in favor with Ewin, but he lists offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Mississippi State.
  • Essandoko is a bit of a wild card, given that he's only played in the U.S. for a short time. It's unclear exactly how his game will translate at the highest levels. He has size that few can replicate. At 7'0" and 260 pounds, he shows surprisingly nimble footwork and, in addition, is a good passer. Teams that have gotten in on his recruitment include Maryland, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Wake Forest, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

If they go the power forward route - a far less likely scenario - they will probably go with players who have previously been offered. This includes AJ Casey, Sadraque Nganga, and - even less likely - Braden Huff.

  • Casey is an athletic, defensive-minded power forward who is still trying to figure out his role on the offensive end of the court. He has connections to the Illini through the Meanstreets Program and Tim Anderson.
  • Nganga struggled over the summer but still has potential due to his outside shooting and length/versatility. It's unclear if Illinois made any traction during initial conversations, but he could be a risk worth taking if caught while his stock is still low.
  • Huff was a favorite over the summer, but Illinois has not been able to secure an official visit as of yet. His perceived leaders right now seem to be Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and Gonzaga. Could Illinois find themselves back in the good graces of his program - the Illinois Wolves - before Huff makes his decision?

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