Illini Basketball Asst Orlando Antigua on Recruiting, Harlem Globetrotters (Exclusive)


It’s another huge day in the Illini basketball recruiting world, as Illinois target and four star Simeon wing Talen Horton-Tucker will announce his decision later tonight. Here’s a link to more on him and four other Illini targets beyond Horton-Tucker.

Exactly one week ago, the Ayo Dosunmu announcement was much more than just a revelation of whether he’d attend Illinois or Wake Forest, it was a true Chicago basketball event. It wasn’t just a recruiting thing, it was major sports news. Yes, college basketball recruiting is bigger and bolder than it’s ever been, and right now we’re in to the height of recruiting season.

orlando antigua

In the world of Illini basketball recruiting, Illinois Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua has as much juice as just about anyone, so we were lucky to have an exclusive conversation with him at Illini basketball Media Day.

We asked Antigua his thoughts about the recent explosion in recruiting coverage, how it’s no longer just a cottage industry, or a niche that gets mainstreamed for a short period once or twice a year. 

It’s now a big deal year ’round, and social media has amplified this component of college athletics much more than any other aspect.

It’s HUGE!

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“It is, it is but I understand the business of college athletics, and part of that is not just your current roster,” Antigua responded.

“But also who you’re going after and all those things, and it just encompasses the whole collegiate athletic field.”    

Antigua, who was on John Calipari’s staff from 2009-2014, has a stellar reputation has an ace recruiter, and he helped land the bluest of blue chips to Lexington- names like Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

As of this season, UK has signed 29 McDonald’s All-American Game players during the John Calipari era who have been named to the prestigious high school event, more than any other school in the country during that time period.

Antigua himself was a McDonald’s All-American when he played.

Multiple players from each signing class have been tabbed McDonald’s All-Americans during the Calipari era, including an all-time record five in the 2013 class (when Antigua was there, go here for the part of this interview where Antigua discusses Calipari and Kentucky)

Covering the McDonald’s All-American game for several years, the event is always dominated by Kentucky commits. We always ask all of them the same question each year-

“What makes Cal such a great recruiter?” It’s remarkable how consistent the responses, from every signee are each year.

“He’s honest. He’s a straight shooter,” they always respond.

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We brought this topic up with Antigua.

“It starts from the recruiting process,” the Illini assistant said.

“He’s not sugar coating anything, he’s setting expectations early, and the people that play for him go in knowing the kinds of sacrifices they’re going to have to make in order to have to success.”

Antigua is also the first Latin-American Harlem Globetrotter in history. He’s close with former Globetrotters Owner and Illini hoops legend Mannie Jackson, and he was on hand at Jackson’s enshrinement at the Naismith and Illini hall for fame enshrinement. Jackson is somebody that Antigua looks up to, and he stays in touch with numerous former Globetrotters who are now are active in coaching. 

harlem globetrotters

Last month, Liverpool FC Manager Jurgen Klopp made a remark which triggered the basketball entertainment team and trick shot specialists. Klopp maintained that his side was all about winning, that they weren’t like the Globetrotters. The traveling troupe’s Twitter account then hit back at Liverpool FC, pointing out how Harlem has won 4,211 games in a row and counting. 

We had a good laugh about this with Antigua. “That’s a misnomer, the Harlem Globetrotters are known for winning,” he said.

“And I was a small part of that, for seven and a half years so that was good. the streak is still alive.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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