Nick Anderson Has Potential Answer to Illini Basketball’s Chicago Recruiting Problems


nick anderson

Nick Anderson gave the first legitimate answer to the age old question that’s been plaguing college basketball in the state of Illinois for decades. The question is very cliche, yes, but it’s extremely shopworn because it’s also painfully true. This question is to Chicago and Illinois college basketball coverage what basing a film off a toy or comic book is to movie-making. Or the local college hoops equivalent of writing a song that rhymes “love” with “above.”

Sing along with me now- “all this great basketball talent in Chicagoland, yet none of the blue chippers stay home to play college ball, why? How do you change that?”

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It’s a problem first and foremost for Illini basketball, as they are the flagship program of the state, but all the other local schools have this issue. Through dozens of media days I’ve heard this question asked hundreds of times, but I never really heard an answer worth even writing down until now.

It came during an exclusive conversation came with Nick Anderson, the first NBA Draft pick in Orlando Magic history and Chicago prep school legend.

Ahead of the inaugural Illini Athletics Hall of Fame Gala in Chicago, we asked Anderson what new Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood needs to do to restore the program.

“I don’t want to sound biased but me personally, I think you need to come back into the city of Chicago, and get the talent that comes out of the city of Chicago,” he responded.

Anderson discussed how Lou Henson’s coaching staff that he played under came into the city and convinced the top Chicagoland talent to stay home, and then built the 1980s Fighting Illini into a powerhouse.

Anderson then added:

“That’s no offense to the rest of the state of Illinois, but I would like to see them keep this talent in Chicago at the University of Illinois.”

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On the follow up question- “what’s the solution?” Nick Anderson had a great answer:

“You got to get in these homes and get in these schools. You have to do it early, when you see that talent developing, because it’s developing early, you need to get on it early, and stay on it. It’s hard, nobody says it’s going to be easy, but you got to get in there early on it.”

It’s an approach that just might work. Maybe it’s not the magic bullet, but at least it’s a solid approach, and on paper a good plan.

That’s a much better answer than most responses, usually the “just win baby” platitudes or “I don’t know, good question.”

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Someday, if the Illini are going to return to the level of prominence that earned them the #11 slot in the Associated Press all-time program rankings poll, they must find a way to land the 5-star Chicago guys. No more losing out on these prospects to Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.

Eventually, they need to start winning those recruiting battles, like the architects of the 1989 Flyin’ Illini did.

Nick Anderson, from Chicago Simeon, was one of the many key players on that Final Four team who hailed from Chicagoland. Four (three suburbs, one city) of the five starters on the 2004-05 team hailed from Chicagoland.

Anderson, along with Dee Brown and Deron Williams, were three of the seven men’s basketball honorees in the first ever Illini Athletics Hall of Fame class. Men’s basketball comprised one-fourth of the 28 member hall of fame class. Anderson averaged 17 points per game during his Illini career and his 35-foot buzzer-beating jump shot to defeat Indiana is considered one of the iconic plays in Fighting Illini history.

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Nick Anderson played 13 years in the NBA with a 14.4 career scoring average. Be sure to listen to the audio of our exclusive conversation below.

We cover a multitude of topics including:

what he does in the Orlando Magic front office, his ambitions and plans to get into coaching, how his son is coming along in his college basketball career, Anderson’s reaction to the Magic and Ben Wilson 30 for 30s and much much more.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network and News NowBanks, a former writer for the Washington TimesNBC and Chicago, currently contributes to WGN CLTV and KOZN

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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