Looks Like University Of Illinois - Brandon Lieb

Jun 28, 2020

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It's just all so weird. Everything, right now, is weird. Recruiting is weird because there are no visits and no in-person evaluations. Both the football and basketball seasons are in jeopardy as Covid surges once again. And now we land a basketball recruit who went from an SIUE offer at the end of his senior season in March to a dozen June offers and an Illinois verbal. Did he blow up at some top-100 camp or an AAU event? Nope - he blew up with the same film that was available in March when he got the SIUE offer. Hasn't played an ounce of basketball in front of anyone since early March and then, all of the sudden, a deluge of offers.

That's weird, right? I don't think it's just me. It's strange in any year for a kid to see a bunch of offers come in after he's graduated high school (not after his senior high school season - after his actual graduation in May/June). But for it to happen when coronavirus has shut down all camps and in-person visits is so strange to me. Yes, there are things you can do to catch the eye of coaches very late in the process. But when Covid shuts down your senior season, there's no basketball being played anywhere, and in June you suddenly see a flurry of offers... it's weird.

Here's the flurry as shown by his Twitter feed:

  • June 5th, Tulsa offers. He had a few other offers after SIUE in March (Bucknell, Boston University), but this is his first "hey, that's a bigger deal" offer.
  • Two days later, on June 7th, Toledo offers. Two days after that, Lon Kruger and Oklahoma extend an offer. His first high major offer.
  • The following week (we're talking about last week now) he lands offers from Oklahoma State, DePaul, Penn, and Utah.
  • On Tuesday he lands the Illinois offer. He has a Zoom call with the coaches somewhere in there and verbals on Thursday.

When I first heard his name (just last week), I heard him discussed as a "reclassification" candidate, and that made sense to me. If a 2021 kid has the transcript to go to college now and can re-class to 2020, then sure, I can see the big surge in interest. Schools would have probably offered him this summer for 2021 and are now thinking about adding him immediately in 2020.

But that's not the case here. He's not really "reclassifying". He was always a 2020 recruit - he just only had options to go to SIUE or Boston University. He thought he could do better than that, so he was going to go to prep school, prove it, and then watch the offers roll in. But he didn't have to prove it at prep school. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, DePaul, Utah, and Illinois all extended offers. It's the movie scene where the main character has given up on something happening and then... hey, what's the sound coming from the high school gym OH MY GOD THEY WERE PRACTICING MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS THE WHOLE TIME.

(If you know anything about me - anything at all - you know that I paused right there and pulled up the soundtrack to Mr. Holland's Opus.)

OK, I need to stop talking about how weird this was. It's just Mike Davis. Mike Davis was going to go prove himself at prep school, Bruce Weber offered IN AUGUST, and the bags he packed for prep school were suddenly shipped to Champaign. He was on campus the following week.

No, this does not mean that Mike Davis is my comp here. Mike Davis was second-team All Big Ten. I don't think Brandon Lieb will be second-team All Big Ten some day. I'm just saying that the "headed to prep school and then a super-late offer comes in" thing has happened before. (Just not during a pandemic.)

And I certainly shouldn't be surprised by an unknown recruit being announced in the middle of the summer. My text to a friend when I saw that Lieb had committed: "It wouldn't be summer without Underwood landing a complete unknown". That's not really a shot at Underwood - just the reality of the last four summers. Matic Vesel? Greg Eboigbodin? Anthony Higgs? Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk? Jermaine Hamlin? Brandon Lieb?

(Oh man the drum riff just hit in An American Symphony which means here come the french horns. An American Symphony by Glenn Holland - now with 33% more electric guitar.)

I'm all over the place. Let's talk about Lieb.

The dream here: Josh Harrellson. I still remember when he verballed to Kentucky and I was all "wait, a kid at the juco in Belleville is going to Kentucky?". A complete unknown as a high school recruit in St. Louis, goes to Southwestern Illinois College for a year, suddenly he's at Kentucky. From no one's radar to Kentucky? He doesn't play much for two years but then his senior season he leads the SEC in rebounding. Skinny, unknown high school center completely off the radar grows into his frame as a senior in college and ends up getting drafted in the second round.

I kinda just described Arch as well. RIP Arch.

We've had a lot of tall, thin, unknown freshmen over the years. I'm not talking about the Mike Tisdales - players we followed because they were one of our main recruiting targets. I'm talking about the lesser-known guys we offered in hopes that weight room + food would eventually = a Big Ten big.

  • Brett Robisch didn't do much here but he transferred to Oklahoma State and became a somebody as an upperclassman.
  • Rich Beyers transferred to Illinois State.
  • Arch was a second-round draft pick.
  • Vesel went back to Slovenia.
  • Hamlin is still TBD.

Again, I'm not listing Nick Smith here because Nick Smith was a top-100 recruit. I'm looking for guys like Lieb - fairly unknown when they picked Illinois, put them in the gym and see where they are in three years. You know, like an offensive lineman.

I really don't know where to go with Tom Cruises here. Looking back at that list of summer unknown recruits, giving 1 Cruise to each would have made sense. They were unknowns at the time and they stayed unknown until they transferred (still TBD on BBV and Hamlin). So I'm inclined to go low with the Cruises here.

But the Oklahoma, Utah, and Oklahoma State offers suggest there's something here. Matic Vesel and Jermaine Hamlin didn't have those offers. So maybe I should go a little higher?

I think I'll settle on 2 Cruises. And, like most OL recruits, weight room, Tisdale diet, let's see what we have in 2023.

Brandon Lieb - two Tom Cruises.


Giovantischixstripz on June 28, 2020 @ 09:28 AM

His tape shows some good stuff. Like most 7 footers in high school, its mostly him catching the ball, either off a pass or rebound and dunking it, but he has a nice shot from deep and shows some touch with both hands on jump hooks. He does need to work hard as a freshman on his body, but if he can put on the weight he needs I expect more from him than Vesel, Ebo, and Haimlin, and see why teams got after him, even though it was late. He could be a hidden Tisdale like player.

hoopsfan47 on June 28, 2020 @ 12:16 PM

All any of us see of Lieb is that high school tape. He is quite different than Ebo or Hamlin in that his offensive skills are very advanced. We see little of his defensive instincts which are mostly about desire. If he can play both ends with elite learning effort, this young man can be a huge player in a couple of years, no pun intended. But having been born and raised in Illinois (known as the Sucker State), I now live in Mo., so you gotta show me. But I will be watching and pulling for Brandon Lieb to be even better than Mike Davis.

Bear8287 on June 28, 2020 @ 01:44 PM

For this stage, he seems to have a nice smooth shot from the outside and with his back to the basket the film indicates that he likes to go right with a nice soft left-handed hook shot. Intriguing. I can see why he started to pick up offers. Even if he doesn't put on a lot of weight, he could be a handful as a 4. I guess the big question would be could he play the needed defense at that position. As a 5, he'll need to bulk up a bit for the B1G. Wish him all of the best.

McAdoo on June 29, 2020 @ 10:02 AM

Clearly there was a re-evaluation of Lieb in the last month or so. My theory is that the pandemic, and the changes associated with it, is allowing college coaches a little more time to evaluate/re-evaluate recruits. It is possible one of the Tulsa coaches, with a little more time on his hands, looked at Lieb's tape and liked what they saw. Other coaches hear about the offer, they look at the tape, and a few more offers roll in. I'm sure someone (If not multiple coaches) on the Illinois staff had evaluated Lieb initially, but with these offers coming in they started looking at him with fresh eyes. Maybe they made some phone calls and watched some additional video to then pull the trigger with an offer. Recruiting is not an exact science, sometimes all it takes is a fresh look and suddenly a player comes in demand.

I personally think Lieb is a bit of a project, but there are some nice building blocks here. I think he has good feet, decent enough athleticism and good shooting touch. Having a decent hook shot with both hands at his age is also a positive. The questions are going to center around strength and defense. Can he put on the weight/strength necessary to play in the Big Ten? And can he learn what he needs to know so he can play proper defense in the conference?

uofi08 on June 29, 2020 @ 11:09 AM

This will be an interesting one to watch, and I love your comparison to an OL recruit. To my untrained eye, this seems to have started with the Tulsa offer. I think that directly led to Oklahoma and Ok State offering. I have no idea how recruiting staff dynamics work, but I would image that Oklahoma and Ok State have some idea of who the smaller programs instate are looking at. Once they caught wind of Tulsa offering a 7-footer, they probably re evaluated and jumped on it. Once Illinois and DePaul caught wind of a suburban kid getting multiple power 5 offers in a week, they jumped in. Some poor recruiting analyst for Tulsa thought they found a legit C prospect and then watched their due diligence springboard the recruitment out of their reach.

Lou-a-villini on June 29, 2020 @ 02:03 PM

Looks like the unknown RS at the end of the Wisconsin bench that becomes a major problem for opponents in about 3 years.

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