Looks Like University Of Illinois - Jayden Epps
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I'll be honest - I'm a little bit wary of writing these basketball LLUOI articles. I do all of this reading-up on AJ Storr, I write the Looks Like University Of Illinois article, and then less than a month after that, AJ Storr decommits. I also wrote the LLUOI post for Reggie Bass and now there's all these rumors that he might not eventually sign. So if I write this one for Jayden Epps, are we going to hear in a month that's he's reconsidering?
I don't mean that as a shot at any of the recruits. Part of that whole thing was the assistant coaches in Champaign, and both of the recent verbals were recruited by Chester Frazier, so they're much more likely to stick. AND, this is kind of the environment now. Because things change so quickly (coaching jobs, transfer portal, etc), all recruits would be smart to keep all options open. Lifetime decisions are being made.
Still, it makes me wary of writing one of these. It's like the summer of 2015 during the Beckman investigation when I just stopped writing LLUOI posts for recruits. No one had any idea what was going to happen, so why not just wait until Signing Day? I guess this isn't exactly like that - Underwood isn't going anywhere, and neither is Chester - but I have the same "wouldn't it be better to just wait until Signing Day?" feeling.
What a way to start a "yay, this player picked Illinois" post.
Let's start with my RSCI list. This list shows every RSCI Top-100 player to pick Illinois since the inception of the Recruiting Services Consensus Index in 1998. There's no RSCI for the 2022 class yet, so I've had to do my own RSCI number for Epps. I'm not using the RSCI formula for that (I'd need to know the other 99 players in order to do that), so I'm just using an average ranking for him. Those numbers: ESPN has Epps 85th, Rivals has him 68th, and 247 has him at #61. Average: 71.
For Sencire Harris, he currently doesn't make my guess at the 2022 RSCI. I've had to approximate his ESPN ranking since they only "rank" the top 100 and then rank the players at each position after that. So to estimate that ranking, here was my methodology:
ESPN's top-100 players stop with the player rating of 82 (the 100th-ranked player got an 82). So I'm going through all five positions and adding all of the players rated 82 but not in the top-100. Harris got an 81, and he's right in the middle of the guards who got an 81, so I'm counting half of all 81's as being ahead of Harris. When I do that, ESPN has Harris ranked... 204th. Add up all of the 82's and half of the 81's and he comes in 104 spots below the top-100 (currently, of course - there are a lot of ranking updates to come and a lot of ranking services who have yet to even put out a list).
So the numbers for Harris: ESPN has him 204th (ish), Rivals has him 59th, and 247 puts him 93rd. Average: 119.
OK, so, the RSCI list. All of the consensus top-100 recruits since 1998 with the Jayden Epps ranking approximated from the rankings we know so far:
19 Dee Brown
20 Brian Cook
21 Frank Williams
24 Jereme Richmond
28 Richard McBride
29 Adam Miller
29 Meyers Leonard
32 Ayo Dosunmu
35 DJ Richardson
37 Jalen Coleman-Lands
43 Kofi Cockburn
45 Andre Curbelo
46 Leron Black
48 Deron Williams
49 Brandon Paul
49 Brian Carlwell
53 Brian Randle
57 Kendrick Nunn
62 Roger Powell
65 Mike Shaw
66 Myke Henry
69 Tracy Abrams
70 Malcolm Hill
71 Jayden Epps
71 Demitri McCamey
76 Crandall Head
77 Shaun Pruitt
77 Nick Smith
78 James Augustine
78 Nnanna Egwu
78 DJ Williams
79 Brandin Podziemski
81 Ramses Melendez
86 Aaron Spears
90 Mark Smith
98 Luke Goode
No pressure, Jayden. Just be a combination of Malcolm Hill and Demitri McCamey.
I also have a list of every Illini recruit since 1998. These 38 players were all consensus top-100 players, but there are also 65 more scholarship players who were not top-100 players. Some just missed the top-100 (Trent Frazier, Tyler Griffey, Warren Carter), some were ranked around 150 or so (Te'Jon Lucas, Maverick Morgan), some were closer to 200 (Alan Griffin, Michael Finke), and some were completely off the radar (Greg Eboigbodin, Chester Frazier, Dominique Keller). All in all, 103 players on my list from the 1998 class (Frankie, Damir, Lucas, Arch) to today.
I'll release those rankings as part of something else I'm working on (some are the RSCI numbers, some are 247 Composite rankings, some are my own rankings based on what I remember before Rivals and 247 were a thing). But the reason I bring it up now is this: Epps, with his average ranking of 71, is tied with Demitri McCamey for the 24th-best player we've signed since 1998. And that's out of 103 players. 24th... 103 total... let's call that 77th percentile.
That's significant. No, it doesn't mean he's certain to be a great college player. Mike Shaw was 65th and did not perform to that level; Alan Griffin was 188th and performed at a much higher level. There's no guarantee of greatness, only odds. If you're ranked 10th, there's probably a 92% chance you'll be a great college player. If you're ranked 277th, there's probably a 6% chance you'll be a great college player. Sometimes 6% hits and sometimes 92% misses. But you always want to recruit ranked players because there's a much better chance you'll get another Ayo or Kofi.
I know I took a long time going through that, but I feel like it's important. Epps ranks 24th on a list of 103 Illini recruits the last 25 classes. This is a significant get.
OK, so let's watch some film together. I prefer high school film to AAU film, so here's some high school film:
I also watched this video, which for me started with an ad featuring Richard Branson asking me if I wanted to go to space, so hopefully you'll be treated to the same. After watching both videos, I think there's a fairly consistent theme here: Epps is a scorer. He likes to pull up from 27 feet, he likes to stop and pop on fast breaks, and in 20 minutes of watching various videos on YouTube, I came away with the thought that he's got a lot of Andy Kaufman in him. For you younger people, maybe a good comp is... Duane Washington at Ohio State? You know the shot is going up.
Which is kind of perfect. The 2021 class had some scorers from the wing, and Andre Curbelo is a great distributor, but there doesn't appear to be a real scorer scorer on future rosters (besides maybe Brandin Podziemski). We're probably going to need a freshman year Trent next season, and I think Epps can be a freshman year Trent.
All told I just really like this pick-up. Lots of great offers, decided to visit NC State, Illinois, UConn, and Kansas, and then picked Illinois. I will take that all day.
Tom Cruises, well, I already spoiled the Tom Cruises in the Sencire Harris LLUOI post. I said 3.75 then, and I'm sticking with 3.75. Ayo was 5, Kofi was 4.5 (should have been 4.75), Belo was 4 (should have been 4.5), and Epps is 3.75 (hopefully I'll add "should have been 4.25" in the years to come).
Jayden Epps - Three and three-quarters Tom Cruises.