PEORIA—The dismal state of college basketball in Illinois over the past decade is well-documented.
On Friday at Carver Arena, one example of why Illinois colleges are struggling to make the NCAA Tournament was streaking up and down the court blocking shots, dunking and rebounding. Morgan Park’s Cam Burrell has been one of the state’s best players this season, but no local college seems to care.
The 6-6 senior averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds. Those aren’t hollow numbers. The Mustangs play in the Red-South/Central, one of the best high school conferences in the nation. Morgan Park traveled all over the country this season, playing teams from six different states.
Burrell was a dominant force in all of those games. He was the talk of Peoria on Friday afternoon after scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in Morgan Park’s Class 3A state semifinal win against Marian Catholic, a team with plenty of size.
One Peoria-based reporter asked me if it was possible that Burrell really shot 91 percent from the field this season. Morgan Park has a reputation for fudging a bit on their stats. I told him I wasn’t sure about 91 percent, but I’d probably buy 70 or 80.
Then Burrell went out and shot 10-for-11 from the field in the Mustangs’ biggest game of the season.
Fans all over the state were watching the game and asking about Burrell on Twitter, everyone assumed he had already signed with a major Division I college or had a lengthy list of scholarship offers.
After the game, Burrell laid out his situation: “My only offer is from Chicago State but their coaches got fired so I don’t know about that.”
Burrell says there are some coaches texting him and showing a little interest.
“There have been some texing,” Burrell said. “Louisiana-Monroe, Bradley, Eastern Illinois, Quinnipiac, East Tennessee State, St. Bonaventure. That’s it.”
Burrell’s situation is eerily similar to where Lucas Williamson was last season. Williamson was Young’s best player. He led them to the Class 4A state title and was one of the city’s best players for all four years of his high school career. He had a couple of very low-DI offers and nothing else when the state tournament ended.
This season, as a freshman, he’s been a key player for a Loyola squad that is in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve watched [Williamson] on TV yesterday and I was thinking about that,” Burrell said. “It was pretty interesting seeing how he played in that game.”
So why hasn’t any college other than Chicago State offered Burrell a scholarship? Most likely he didn’t impress over the summer. College coaches value club basketball quite a bit more than high school these days.
But because he’s a city kid, Burrell has to deal with everyone wondering if he has lousy grades or a bad attitude. That’s simply not true.
“I’m a qualifier,” Burrell said. “I don’t know why they aren’t offering. I’m just trying to stay focused and win a state championship. After the season I’ll try and figure that out.”