A few weeks ago we mourned the loss of 2012 recruit Michael Orris (who it turns out is following Bruce Weber to KState). However, two new guys have confirmed they will be heading to campus to play for John Groce and the Illini next year. Mike LaTulip will join the team as a preferred walk-on, while Sam McLaurin will transfer from Coastal Carolina. The news of both new guys is exciting, though one caused a bit more of a stir with his announcement than the other.
On Monday, John Groce announced that LaTulip would be joining the program. The thing is, LaTulip actually already committed to walking on the team in September of last year, so really Groce was just sort of confirming that LaTulip isn’t jumping ship.
LaTulip attends Prospect High School, and is a member of the Full Package AAU team. The 6-0, 165-pound guard averaged 22.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds during his senior season, leading Prospect to a record of 17-9 and 7-3 in the Mid-Suburban League’s East Division. He made 75 three-pointers on the year while shooting 38.5 percent from behind the arc.
“We are pleased that Mike will attend the University of Illinois and join our basketball team,” Groce said. “He is a prolific scorer and without question one of the best shooters in the state of Illinois. He turned down many scholarship opportunities to walk-on here, so we feel fortunate to add a player of Mike’s caliber to our program.”
What Illinois needs right now is a scorer, so this is great news that LaTulip isn’t flying the coop. Though one might turn their nose up at a guy that is a “preferred walk-on,” you have to remember that Trent Meacham and Jeff Jordan, who happened to be the son of some guy named Michael, both started out as walk-ons. Both earned a scholarship in their second year and one of them – hint, not the son of Michael – turned out to be a pretty integral part of the team.
LaTulip’s announcement flew under the radar, while everyone is talking about McLaurin, who took to Twitter and said “F*** it, I’m going to Illinois. #Illinination.” He later apologized for his language and tweeted: “Hey everyone sorry about my language last night. I was just extremely excited to be part of #illinination.”
While profanity is never really necessary, I gotta love that he was so excited to be part of the gang that he lost himself for a moment. However, I did hear that his team didn’t even know about the transfer until the tweet, which is a bit more concerning. His actions have also gotten a lot of attention, and I don’t really think it’s bad attention. After no one wanted to coach us for a while, it’s nice that someone is ecstatic to wear the orange and blue.
McLaurin follows the footsteps of Sam Maniscalco and will enroll as a graduate student at Illinois. This means he can compete immediately during the 2012-13 season under the NCAA one-time transfer exception. The 6-8, 230-pound forward started all 31 games for the Chanticleers last season, averaging 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 65.2 percent from the field.
McLaurin scored in double figures in 18 games on the year and recorded five double-doubles, and totaled 674 points and shot nearly 62 percent during his four-year career and owns the Coastal Carolina record for career blocked shots with 155 while ranking seventh on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 647 boards.
A native of Havana, Fla., McLaurin is a two-time Big South All-Academic selection and earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2012 as well.
Though he will only be on the team one year, McLaurin could be really helpful in filling the hole left by Meyers Leonard. Though the Maniscalco experiment didn’t quite work, perhaps McLaurin will be different. Either way, we’re f****ing excited to have both new guys on the team.