Looks Like University Of Illinois - AJ Storr

Apr 9, 2021

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Gonna work backwards again. I have three (maybe four?) LLUOI posts to write, so I'll start with the verbal yesterday and then work my way back through the pile. First up? 2022 guard/wing AJ Storr. Let's start with a couple (nine) paragraphs on recruiting in 2021.

Since the NCAA subcommittee approved the one-time transfer with no sit-out year in October (of note: final vote by the board still hasn't happened because of the NIL delay), I've been talking about the changes to recruiting. How transfers are the new freshmen. I've called it the era of free agency. Yes, there's still the draft (HS recruiting), but now teams can go out and land free agents (transfers) to fill holes immediately. You'll see teams save a lot of scholarships for Transfer SZN in the spring.

Brad Underwood even acknowledged this in his press conference last week. I'll go copy his quote from my last post on the subject:

"The advantage to the Transfer Portal is that they've transferred and they can't again. You get a chance to get a student athlete for more than one year, potentially. So there's some advantage in retention, there's no doubt. But that's the downside to a freshman. They could obviously leave or, if they're good enough, go pro."

Tired: recruiting freshmen who could leave after one year.
Wired: recruiting transfers who have used their one-time free transfer and have to stick around.

So I hypothesized that teams would be very selective about adding HS recruits. Not only are the days of adding high school sophomores and freshmen gone (remember how the Richmond-Leonard-Head class all committed before any of them got to their junior year of high school?), I figured recruits outside the top-75 might be told "let's talk again in the spring after Transfer SZN". Slow play would be the play.

Or so I thought.

Adding AJ Storr and Reggie Bass before they even reach their junior year spring AAU seasons is... not what I would have expected. That's probably being too kind. Let me describe this a different way.

For whatever reason, during the pandemic, the real estate market has been red hot. Perhaps it's as simple as "people are staying home so they want a new home". Doesn't really matter why - it's simply been a hot market. I'm sure everyone has a friend who has a "we put in an offer for $5,000 over asking but we still didn't get it".

When we tried to sell our home in 2009, it was, uh, a different kind of real estate market during the Great Recession. Barely any showings. Months without an offer, and when there was an offer, it was the lowest of lowballs. We ended up not selling.

Brad Underwood is looking to buy a house, so to speak. Because of Transfer Madness, the market for high schoolers is fairly quiet right now. Everyone seems to be taking their time. No need to make any aggressive offers because there's very little risk of losing the house due to some "11 offers the first day, nine of them over asking price" scenario. Plenty of time to look around and get it right.

Instead, we just bought two houses at full asking price. Moved quickly because we didn't want to lose the houses. Now, maybe Underwood knows something that the other buyers didn't know. Maybe this neighborhood is ready to explode and he'll be sitting on two very valuable properties in a few years. If that's the case, jumping on the house and making sure his offer was strong will be seen as a brilliant move. I'm just very surprised at the urgency.

I mean, Underwood is a coach with only four November signees in four recruiting classes. More than 80% of his recruits have signed in the spring. The four earliest verbals so far: Luke Goode on April 17th of his junior year, Coleman Hawkins on September 21st of his senior year, Ayo Dosunmu on October 19th of his senior year, and Andre Curbelo on November 1st of his senior year. Every other recruit (and there have been 21 total) signed in the spring of their senior year (and a few in the summer).

And now... a recruit verbals on March 19th of their junior year and a recruit verbals on April 7th of their junior year. I mean, Underwood has earned our trust in this category, but, uh, I don't get it.

If you're curious why I say "Underwood has earned our trust", I covered that in this post. In six consecutive visits in the fall of 2018 Brad Underwood brought players to campus ranked #31, #43, #44, #46, #90, and #121 in the class. Three years later we can comfortably say that they all were among the top 50 recruits in that class (and I'd argue they were all top-35). Guys like Kofi and Drew Timme should have probably been top-10. Then, in the next class, Andre Curbelo (and I'd argue Coleman Hawkins) out-performed their rankings. So I feel like we should trust this staff on player evaluations.

Still, I'm not sure I understand the timing. Was there a risk of losing Bass and Storr to another program? Their offers certainly didn't suggest that. I'm curious why the urgency here.

(I always do this. The post is supposed to be about the kid, and here I am talking around the kid. Fairly disrespectful. The roster constructions are for the coach, not the kid. The kid just wants to play high-major basketball and now he will. Let's talk about the kid.)

First off, I can't use any of my crutches here. I still don't trust my basketball film evaluation skillz, but I have crutches I can use to get me to the Cruises. Offers, AAU stats, RSCI rankings. For Storr I have... none of that.

It's too early to go by offers, and that's in a normal year without a pandemic. Spring AAU at the end of a player's junior year was always when offers would really become reliable. The example I've always used was Sherron Collins, who, on April 10, 2005, had "Illinois, Iowa, and several ACC schools interested" (but no offers yet) according to this article. But that was the weekend he blew up on the national scene and by the end of July he was in the top-25 with dozens of offers (and he ended up a 5-star). Had he committed to Illinois on April 7th (and if there was no real spring AAU that year), we'd have the same questions on him that we have on Storr ("why no ranking?"). I'm not saying all players will blow up into 5-stars. I'm saying that Covid has made rankings and offers unreliable for this class, and even in non-Covid years there's 30-40 players who first emerge in the spring and summer after their junior season.

Now, that's not to say we can't use SOME of the info. He didn't start on his high school team as a junior (more on that in a bit). His HS team was just on national TV at the private school "national championship" but it didn't bring a flurry of offers or interest or even a ranking (partly because he only played 10 minutes in one game and 14 minutes in the other). So we know that we can declare "late bloomer" here. The question then becomes the bloom.

And that's where we don't have much we can go by. I read several articles about him (the most interesting being this one from the Kankakee paper last year) so I'll just go through a timeline.

He plays his freshman year at Rockford Lutheran up in Rockford. His mom then gets a job in Kankakee so they move there. He plays at Kankakee as a sophomore and junior. His junior year, according to that article I just linked, he averaged 12 points and 4 rebounds at Kankakee. (And remember, this was just last year. The season that ended abruptly due to Covid.)

In the fall he transfers to Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas. Not sure if that was because high school basketball was in doubt in Illinois or what, but he transfers there. But then in the fall when the big wave of Covid hit, high school basketball was in doubt in Nevada. So he transferred to AZ Compass Prep in Phoenix and played his fourth season there. I say fourth season because he's technically a senior but another article I read said that he plans to play two years there (so let's call it a junior year and then a "prep school" year).

He gets some exposure at Compass and offers start to come in. The three high-major ones were Illinois, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech. But he was coming off the bench for his high school team. The reason? Five D-I players in front of him. TyTy Washington has offers from everyone, Alden Applewhite is going to Mississippi State, Javon Small is going to East Carolina, their small forward Glenn Taylor Jr is the #111 player in the 2021 class (hasn't picked a school yet) and their center, Adrame Diongu, is a 2022 kid with an offer from Mississippi State so far. So "he didn't start for his high school team, and he's technically a senior right now" at least has a few explanations (private school where their starters will all be playing Division I ball next year).

Still, if this is a high-major player, in his fourth year of high school basketball, shouldn't he beat out the shooting guard going to East Carolina? I'm willing to give this staff the benefit of the doubt, but that's not the greatest data point right there.

I was able to find four Compass Prep box scores online. Here's his stats from those games:

14 minutes, 7 points and 2 rebounds
10 minutes, 10 points and 3 rebounds
11 minutes, 9 points and 0 rebounds
6 points and 0 rebounds in a box score that does not list minutes

So in those four games... 8 ppg and 1.3 rpg. Not exactly lighting the world on fire (although, again, coming off the bench behind five Division I players).

Film? Hand up - I haven't watched any yet. Let me search his name in YouTube and find some.

Here's a game from this fall (kind of a club tournament where he was playing with a bunch of Las Vegas players - this is before his move to Compass Prep). Let's watch it together, shall we?

OK so why didn't anyone tell me about this film? My goodness that's impressive. I don't really trust my basketball evals but that's ESPN's recruiting guy Paul Biancardi doing the color commentary there and he's certainly impressed. Now I need to see if Biancardi wrote anything about him.

Couldn't find any articles but I did find this tweet:

Really impressive hops right there.

Well, this LLUOI has certainly taken an interesting turn. 20 minutes ago I'm all "doesn't start over the East Carolina guy and only scored 8 ppg in the four box scores I found". And then I see that game (and those hops, and that stroke) and I feel like I totally understand why Underwood made a move this early. A kid from Rockford/Kankakee with wingspan and hops and a smooth stroke? Feels like he might really surge up the rankings in the next 12 months as he gets some exposure. That means I should stay ahead of the curve with the Cruises.

AJ Storr - three and one-half Tom Cruises


IlliniJoe81 on April 9, 2021 @ 02:03 PM

Passes the eye test.

Nabor568 on April 9, 2021 @ 04:44 PM

Those are some productive minutes. Even if he doesn’t keep the same ratio at 20ish minutes a game, I’ll take it.

HNLINI on April 9, 2021 @ 07:27 PM

My guess is that the athleticism, size, wing span and build project well into what BU is trying to accomplish. Pretty smooth stroke as well. Not looking at a one and done, or one and transfer, but an important cog as a sophomore and upper classman if he reclassifies to 2021, and potentially as a frosh if he doesn't.

BU has a strong affinity for glue guys/players who know their roles from winning teams/programs: Giorgi, CoHawk, DMFW, Grandison. This offer/commit fits that mold well.

40n4atIMPE on April 9, 2021 @ 08:59 PM

He's built like the guys on Baylor.

firet92 on April 10, 2021 @ 01:21 PM

That was an enjoyable, circuitous journey with you, Robert.

NC_OrangeKrush on April 10, 2021 @ 04:55 PM

My guess is his defense kept him from more minutes. But hey he can figure that out. Size, hops, and shooting makes sense to me..... Great pick up in building the overall team.

skibdaddy on April 12, 2021 @ 03:34 AM

Here's the problem though... 4 high schools in 3 years. Gonna take some great connections to keep this kid nailed down. Maybe if TyTy comes it'll help

jono426 on April 12, 2021 @ 12:17 PM

Houses in the austin area are going 150k-200k over asking. Yes you read that correctly.

I’m thinking Storr might have that type of growth potential. I believe he’s a young senior (should be a junior?) and that’s why he’s spending another year in prep school.

HailToTheOrange on April 15, 2021 @ 06:34 AM

I had to chuckle at "we put in an offer for $5,000 over asking but we still didn't get it".

Homes in the Bay Area are going for a MILLION over asking. So very painful.


STLINI on April 12, 2021 @ 02:02 PM

I completely get what you are saying about being puzzled with the Bass signing. Even in his highlights, I don't see a definitive high major player. Not a guy I understand taking early. But I see the possibility with Storr. He may not have the production, but he has the athletic tools that Illinois needs to start getting more of in their guards.

Getting Storr now really makes me question Bass more. If we did have a good shot at Jaden Schutt, does bringing in 2 other 6'5" shooting guards in the same class now put a big doubt in that recruitment?

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