Illini land 5-star guard Skyy Clark

For the first time since Dee BrownIllinois basketball has landed a five-star recruit. Skyy Clark — the no. 27 prospect in the Class of 2022 — committed to Illinois on Thursday live on ESPNU, giving a big late boost to an Illini recruiting class that now ranks among the top-10 classes nationally.

Clark, who suffered a torn ACL last year, originally signed with Kentucky but received a release from his national letter of intent in early March. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard chose Illinois over Louisville, USC, Maryland, Tennessee and Washington, among other options he considered this spring.

Illinois assistant coach Tim Anderson led the Illini’s efforts with Clark, the son of former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Kenny Clark

Clark said of his commitment to ESPNU: “There’s a lot. They’re a proven winning program. Coach Underwood, I love his play style. I love the way he pushes his guys, and Coach Tim, he’s like an uncle to me. He was my first scholarship when I went to DePaul, and he’s just been there with me since Day One, since I can remember. [strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher]† I feel like coming off the ACL, I really haven’t gotten my full athleticism back, so I feel like he’s really going to really bring me back to my pre-injury self.

†[I’ll bring] really just winning. Winning, that’s my biggest thing. I want to win. I want to go as far as we can, go as far as we can in the tournament and do everything we can to make the fans and my teammates happy. Really that home visit that [Underwood] came to a few weeks ago really just sold it to me. He was probably at the house for like two or three hours and we were having a great conversation about everything. He said he’s going to push me, and that’s what I love. I know he’s going to make me great.”

why it matters: Illinois now has the No. 8 recruiting class nationally, the highest-ranked Illini recruiting class if the last two decades. But more importantly, Clark along with incoming 2022 recruits Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris helps the Illini replenish the backcourt, where Illinois lost senior starters Trent Frazier and Alfonso Plummer and 2021 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Andre Curbelowho entered the transfer portal after a tumultuous sophomore season.

what it means: The Illini likely are getting more talented and bigger at guard, but they will be very young and inexperienced. Clark, a big-bodied guard who is a dynamic playmaker who can score at all three levels complements Epps — a talented bucket-getter — and makes for a potentially great duo for the next few years. Illinois is still looking in the transfer portal for an experienced guard to help further boost the backcourt.

Furthermore, Brad Underwood continues to raise the standard for Illinois basketball. A year ago, he lost his entire coaching staff after No. 1-seeded Illinois suffered a disappointing second-round NCAA Tournament exit. A year later with a revamped staff, he won the program’s first share of a Big Ten regular-season championship in 17 years, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and has put together Illinois basketball’s highest-ranked recruiting class in two decades. Illinois basketball is in a good place.

Scouting report from Eric Bossi, 247Sports National recruiting analyst: “Any updated scouting report of Clark has to start off by mentioning that he’s still in the process of getting to 100%. He tore his ACL last spring and managed to return to the floor by January. The speed with which he was able to recover and get himself back into playing shape is notable in that nobody is capable of doing that without an impressive work ethic and commitment to hard work.

“While Clark was able to make a quick return to the floor, he was understandably rusty. During his return, Clark lacked some of the explosion at the rim and ability to shake defenders off the bounce that he had prior to getting hurt. Hopefully, that comes back with time. Clark has always had good strength and he came back from injury stronger than ever and that strength allows him to play through and off of contact and should serve him well when he makes the transition to college.

“At this point his development, it is probably fair to classify Clark as more of a scoring point guard than traditional playmaker. When he’s at his best he is attacking downhill, making use of his dangerous jump shot and deep range and playing in an aggressive manner on the offensive end. He is certainly a capable playmaker for others but when that becomes the sole focus of his game, he can be a bit too passive in looking for his own offense. The rocks of his game are his tight ball-handling and creativity offensively.”

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