The future looks quite bright for basketball in the Big Ten.
Thanks largely in part to Ivan Harris, Charlie Villanueva, Brandon Cotton, Shannon Brown and Brian Butch. They're five of the nation's top prep players who recently played in the 26th-annual McDonald's All-American boy's game at Gund Arena. All have opted to attend Big Ten universities in the fall.
“These are all talented kids. If the Big Ten has five of these kids then obviously that says a lot for the Big Ten's future,” said Mountain View High (Mesa, Ariz) coach Gary Ernst, who served as the McDonald's West All-Stars coach for this year's game won by the East All-Stars 122-107.
History has shown colleges fortunate enough to attract a McDonald's All-American to their programs have a greater chance at winning a Division I national championship than those rosters without one. At least one McDonald's All-American has been a part of every NCAA men's championship team dating back to 1979 - when Earvin “Magic” Johnson led the Spartans to the national title - through 2001.
Brown, a 6-3 guard, is considered the top shooting guard in the Class of 2003 after averaging 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists this season.
Cotton, a six-foot playmaker, also averaged 27 points a game this season.
Villanueva, a 6-10 forward, is one of the most versatile frontcourt players in the nation. He averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks while sharing the spotlight with high school teammate and fellow McDonald's All-American Luol Deng (24 ppg, 12 rpg). Villanueva, who scored 17 points for the East All-Stars, ultimately decided to attend Illinois while Deng is headed for Duke.
Familiarity with the program and the coach seems to have had a hand in Harris and Butch selecting their Big Ten schools of choice.
Harris, a 6-7 forward, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds as a senior at Oak Hill Academy. Choosing Ohio State came with a level of familiarity since he'd attended Springfield South prior to this school year.
Wisconsin-bound Butch, a 6-11 center, was the top prep player in the state after producing 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks during his senior season.
Dayton Chaminade-Julienne's Brandie Hoskins chose to become a Buckeye.
“One of the reasons I chose Ohio State is because I know the Dukes and all of those schools are going to be good without me,” said Hoskins, a 5-11 guard, who averaged 16 points and five rebounds in her senior season. “I also know that Ohio State hasn't been doing well in the past and I know that if we get a good group like we got now to go there, we can turn it around.”
Davenport, who averaged 17 points and 10 boards in her senior campaign, made playing close to home a priority.
“I looked mainly at the Big Ten because I knew I wanted to stay close to home,” Davenport said. “With the recruits we have coming in to Ohio State now the program is not going to do anything but get better.”
“I definitely talk about the Big Ten in general and say that it's definitely the best place to be,” said Lawless, who averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds this season. “I was looking at the overall perspective of how [women's] basketball has evolved in the Big Ten.”