When Michael Orris and his Illinois Old School Elite squad hit the AAU trail in July, Illinois’ coaching staff followed him every step of the way.
That’s just one reason Orris, who lived in Palatine from kindergarten through 10th grade, committed to the Illini immediately upon receiving a scholarship offer Sunday morning during an hour-long meeting in Bruce Weber’s office.
Old School’s first game during the month-long recruiting showcase tipped off in the morning on July 6 in Indianapolis. “Within the first couple of minutes, in walked Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard,” said Bill Orris, Michael’s father.
Howard stayed to watch the second game that night. Fellow assistant Jay Price came around, too. The trio took turns tracking Orris to Waukegan, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Fort Wayne. The Illini didn’t miss a game.
Illinois’ coaching staff can’t talk about the Crete-Monee senior point guard until he signs his letter of intent in November, so that’s the first chance to learn when Weber decided to offer the scholarship.
(Actually, I should type “re-offer” the scholarship because Illinois offered Orris in the spring, too, but he chose Creighton in early May and de-committed in late June).
Bill Orris doesn’t know for sure, but it sounds like Michael Orris might have cemented the deal during Old School’s trip to Fort Wayne. After scoring just 2 points in the first half of Old School’s opener, Bill sensed Michael getting frustrated --- wondering whether his play was affecting his recruitment. Bill took him aside and told him, in essence, to forget about who was in the stands.
(EDIT: Old School Elite coach Scott Lidskin, not Bill Orris, took Michael aside and counseled him. I misread my notes and need to make that correction).
Orris proceeded to reel off 26 points in the second half of the opener. Then he scored 15 in Game 2. Then 26 in Game 3. Then 40 in Game 4. Then he wrapped things up with 30 points in Game 5. Bill Orris said Michael drilled 6 3-pointers in a row during the 40-point effort and finished 8-of-11 from 3-point range for the game.
“All the coaches were coming down from the stands and looking at the scorebook,” Bill Orris said.
Shortly thereafter, Michael Orris went on an official visit to Nebraska. He went on an unofficial trip to Boston College and made plans for an official. He started making plans for an official visit to Virginia. He was scheduled to make his official visit to Illinois on the Sept. 24 weekend, but Weber pushed it up to last weekend.
On Friday night, Orris went out with the entire team. On Saturday night, after the team, the coaches and the Orris family Weber’s home, Orris went to an Illini player’s apartment and was impressed when all 15 players hung out together.
Bill Orris, a Covenant Church pastor, found himself just as impressed with Weber.
“I just saw his sincerity,” Orris said. “As I told him, ‘Your servant’s heart is very sincere. You’re like a dad to some of the players.' "
Barring a transfer or an early entry into the NBA, Orris will be Illinois’ only recruit in the Class of 2012. The Illini have three open slots for the Class of 2013, but they’ve already filled up two of those spot. Hope Academy point guard Jalen James committed in June. Belleville East shooting guard Malcolm Hill, another four-star recruit, committed on the same day as Orris. In fact, their Sunday morning meetings with Weber happened back-to-back.
ORRIS BY THE NUMBERS:
2008-09 at Palatine HS: Started on varsity
2009-10 at Palatine HS: Daily Herald all-area pick (9.5 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.6 rpg, 1.5 spg)
2010-11 at Crete-Monee HS: Southland Star all-area pick (10.2 ppg, 6.2 apg). Team went 25-4 and reached supersectionals for first time.