Basketball recruits two big men to add depth

By Courtney Linehan

Illinois basketball inked two top recruits on signing day, picking up commitments from 6-foot-11 forward Brian Carlwell and 6-foot-9 Ohio native Richard Semrau.

The duo will add depth to Illinois’ frontcourt, and head coach Bruce Weber said not to be surprised if they make a difference early in their careers.

“I think they’re both physical enough to have a presence,” Weber said.

Carlwell is a 260-pounder from Proviso East, Dee Brown’s former high school. He averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks per game as a junior and is the top-ranked big man in Illinois.

Carlwell’s brother, who plays at Illinois State, played with Brown in high school. Weber said the forward was sold on Illinois after visiting campus last spring, and that the tie to Illinois’ star point guard didn’t hurt.

While he expects the nearly 7-footer to make waves on the floor, he’s hesitant to make any preditions about how much success he’ll have.

“You never know until you put him next to the big kids already in your program,” Weber said.

A multi-talented athlete, Carlwell plays tight end and wide receiver for Proviso East. Weber said he’s seen Carlwell play football and was amazed at his speed and skill.

“He can run and chew gum and not fall over,” Weber said.

Semrau, from Rocky River, Ohio, should play at the three spot for Illinois. Semrau averaged 22.3 points and 10 rebounds per game last season and was a three-star recruit by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Weber said he’s happy with Semrau’s mature understanding of the game and ability to run the court. He said Semrau’s style is similar to Jack Ingram’s but is more athletic and flexible.

Semrau’s high school coach, Phil Argento, played for Adolp Rupp at Kentucky, and Weber said you can see Semrau has developed a Rupp-style work ethic and discipline.

Weber said he is still looking to pick up one more player in the spring signing period. He said he’d like to sign a guard who can create options on the court. Weber said he doesn’t have a specific player in mind, and that he isn’t worried about losing possibilities who might sign with other schools in the fall.

“There’s always some kid that me, you and even the recruiting services don’t know about,” Weber said.