O’Brien: Why won’t any college offer Morgan Park’s Cam Burrell?

Morgan Park's Cam Burrell (3) gets a big dunk late in the third quarter against St, Laurence, Tuesday 03-06-18. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

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.”


  • N Foster

    That was said to me a few years ago.
    Not about this particular player!

  • N Foster

    This won’t be popular, but a D1 coach in Illinois told me “We have to be very careful with city kids. They tend to have a lot of extra baggage that comes with them. Many times they are also over-valued and under-coached.”

  • Chris

    When Cam Burrell was in seventh and eighth grade he was my son’s “big brother” when my son was in kindergarten and first grade. He was absolutely the nicest young kid you could have met and was great to my son. Whatever school gets him will be very fortunate. GOOD LUCK CAM!!!

  • D truth..

    I’m floored by the lack of basketball acumen on this board. Coaches are paid big bucks to develop players . Cam has a very high ceiling and those skills can be taught. But his intangibles cannot. He has drive, size,speed,quickness and intensity. Could be a nightmare on the wing.

  • Mike Bean

    Here’s why there aren’t a lot of offers coming his way, it’s called lack of skill, and a lack of strength. There’s adequate athleticism, but that’s it. His brother was actually a much more skilled player. You have to be able to do more than put back layups or dunks to play on the next level. And those numbers are do to the fact he has 2 teammates who demand all the defensive attention. He is a D2 player at best, real basketball people know this. I wish people who can’t properly identify and evaluate talent would stop trying to do so.

    • Basketball junkie

      Man you hit it right on the head.No Basketball skills dunking not going to get it

    • Chris

      You actually are correct about whats needed at the high division 1 level…but you dont have to present it as if you invented the game..little humility goes a long way

  • Mr HS Basketball

    Its amazing that Cam doesnt have a offer along with the kid from Marist Morgan # 20. I have seen both of them play an if there teams didnt have them the season for those teams would be so different. Illinois college teams should open there eyes. I have seen them both an talent is there how do coaches not see it. I wish both of those young men the best of luck Coaches open your eyes look at Loyola great job of putting them back on the map with the Illinois kids

  • Wake Up

    The biggest reason why chicago kids are not recruited in State is do to most of the Illinois University/College coaches are hired from out of state. You also find the assistant coaches are not from the State either. AAU teams are not for the best interests the kids….its all about the MONEY….SHOE DEALS. You talk about NCAA using the kids….how about AAU

    One mouth(May-July)out of the summer education should be part of the kids development. Instead its all basketball May is AAU…June High School Ball…July AAU

    on top of that only 1% make it to the NBA

  • Rjm61

    Burrell is definitely a strong mid-major player. He’s got a great motor and is a winner. Amazing that Loyola, SIU, ISU and Bradley are not offering.

  • Clyde The Glide

    If Rob Smith goes to Chicago State I’m sure Burrell will still be welcome.
    He knows how to open the door for good ones.

  • Be real

    6’6″ big in high school is not the same in college…. Not the Highs but he should get a ton of mm and Lm offers…that’s the unfortunate part of getting lost behind the other star…..Also AAU circuit #’s carry more weight than High school #’s

  • Wscfantoo

    I’d say Missouri should offer, but then he’d get more below average coaching.

  • Duke Carnoustie

    Mike is 100 percent correct. Burrell would dominate the Big East, no doubt he would shoot 90 percent for DePaul against teams like Xavier, Villanova and Butler. The Blue Demons coaching staff should hire O’Brien as assistant coach.

  • Betty

    What are his test scores? Is he academically qualified?

  • Truth teller

    Cam Burrell is absolutely a DI-quality player and the overall point of this article is very correct, but let’s be realistic. We don’t know what he’s actually averaging. Those stats are made up.

  • Craig S. Siller

    Let’s send them all to Loyola, why not they seem to be the only ones willing to commit to our kids. I’ve always thought since the start of the season that Burrell was The key for Morgan Park

  • Mike O'Malley

    I feel the same way about Morgan Taylor at Marist. He could be an unbelievable guard at the next level.

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