Illini recruiting watch: Marcus LoVett


Who is Marcus LoVett?

In a recruiting class where the names Jalen Brunson, Jawun Evans, Elijah Thomas, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Carlton Bragg have been etched into Illini fans’ collective wish lists, the name LoVett carries less recognition.

But now LoVett, a 5-foot-11 senior point guard out of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, is set to burst onto the state — and possibly national — scene, deservedly or not.

In the last week, both Joe Henricksen and Michael O’Brien have written articles for High School Cube News, a Chicago Sun-Times publication, singing LoVett’s praises, marketing him as possibly the next star of Illinois high school basketball.

Both articles quote LoVett’s high school coach Nick Irvin, who essentially calls LoVett the next Derrick Rose. The trajectory of LoVett’s recruitment skyrocketed when he picked up a scholarship offer from Kansas last week.

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    Elite player in our own state? The next Derrick Rose? Kansas offer?

    I know what you’re thinking: Where do the Illini stand with this guy?

    It seems that John Groce and his staff are in wait-and-see mode on LoVett, and for good reason. Even though he’s generating a lot of buzz right now, you have to look at the circumstances surrounding his recruitment to understand why he’s perhaps being overlooked and over hyped at the same time.

    Though LoVett has suited up for Chicago’s Mac Irvin Fire AAU team in the past, this will be his first season playing high school ball in Chicago’s Public League. LoVett played his first two high school seasons in California, averaging 31.7 and 36.7 points per game as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.

    These eye-popping numbers would normally generate overwhelming interest from schools eyeing LoVett’s services, but so far he only holds two other offers from San Diego State and UC-Irvine. He is also ranked as a fringe Top 100 prospect by most recruiting services.

    It seems LoVett isn’t getting tons of love from schools and rankings because of his nomadic basketball career. Transferring high schools multiple times is usually a red flag for coaches, and then there are rumors that LoVett’s transcripts might not allow him to qualify for college. He also didn’t participate in the premiere AAU events and showcases over the past summer, further dropping his rankings and diverting college coaches’ attention elsewhere.

    But for all the uncertainty on LoVett, there’s no denying that the kid is wildly talented. He is easily one of the most electrifying players in the country, able to take over a game with sizzling ball-handling and a smooth left-handed jumper. He makes plays that a high school player simply has no business making, and he does it with a swagger and flair that any fan base would love.

    If you need visual evidence, search “Marcus LoVett” on YouTube. Seriously, do it, even though you’d be far from the first person to do so. His most-viewed highlight mixtape has nearly 4.7 million views, and his videos are nothing but dazzling displays of skill that make you shake your head.

    There’s no doubt Irvin at Morgan Park has a lot to gain personally by making bold proclamations about his next star player, and there’s no denying that LoVett has a lot of question marks next to his name. But expect Groce and his staff to do their due diligence and keep a close eye on LoVett as the high school season nears.

    After all, coach John Beilein at Michigan has built a very solid program on under-recruited players. Trey Burke, the ex-Wolverine, and ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, was only ranked No. 84 in his class by Caris LeVert, a major contributor on last year’s Michigan team who projects as their leading scorer this upcoming season, was ranked much lower than Burke and most of his Big Ten peers.

    It’s too early to tell if LoVett will be a star at the college level similar to Burke and LeVert, but the potential is certainly there. It would be tough to stomach if LoVett blossoms as a star at another school, especially after he stated that he’d like to stay in-state for college.

    Illinois hasn’t extended a scholarship offer to LoVett at this point, and Groce is currently recruiting Jamal Murray of Canada to fill the point guard role in this recruiting class. There’s a long way to go in the class of 2015 with Bragg, Thomas and Murray still in play.

    But with the status of those three still uncertain, LoVett certainly deserves an in-depth look.

    Alex is a junior in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @aroux94.