Grand Rapids, Minnesota, native Alex Illikainen became the second member of Wisconsin's 2015 recruiting class when he gave a verbal commitment to Bo Ryan in the middle of his official visit this weekend, per 247Sports' Evan Flood.
The 6'8 forward is a bona fide scoring machine at the prep level, but also a double-double threat every night. He averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds as a junior at Grand Rapids H.S. before making the decision to attend Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, for his senior year.
Illikainen had offers from California, Indiana, Iowa State, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Oregon, Providence and others, but saw his recruitment rapidly change in the last month, at which point he trimmed his final list to two schools, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Normally, comparing a future Badger to UW great Mike Wilkinson is a recipe for disappointment, but Illikainen really does have a bit of Wilkinson in his game -- and his story. Though technically Grand Rapids dwarves Wilkinson's rural Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, beginnings, both guys came from fairly remote towns to become the toast of the high school basketball scenes in their hockey-loving states.
(Oh, and his hockey-coaching dad looks an awful lot like Jim Nance, so they've got that going for them).
Notice in his highlight reels how he can seal his man for better post position, then mix in some Wilkinson staples like pump fakes and spin moves. Illikainen may not have quite the broad shoulders or defensive acumen as Wilkinson, but he sure is comfortable scoring in the paint.
Check out some video of Illikainen from this spring to see a bit of the outside shot he's been developing:
At Brewster Academy, Illikainen will play alongside a veritable high school all-star team, full of eight other major Division I recruits. He will be tested not only in practice each day but by the top-notch prep school schedule Brewster plays each year. Six Brewster alumni were invited to the 2014 NBA Draft Combine alone.
This was a huge commitment for Wisconsin. Illikainen's game complements the outside shooting of fellow UW commit Brevin Pritzl, but his versatility is also an ideal fit with center Diamond Stone, whom the Badgers hope to build the entire 2015 class around. Furthermore, swooping in just a month ago and securing a commitment from a four-star recruit that Gopher fans really wanted is going to kick up a bit of momentum for the program once again.
Wisconsin is well-stocked at forward for the coming years. Regardless of what Sam Dekker does after the season, Illikainen can slide in nicely behind Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ next season, and perhaps begin shouldering some of the scoring load off the bench right away in his second year.
I would expect UW to go after a small forward or a more under developed big man to close out the 2015 class, with plenty of openings if a late-rising point guard prospect becomes available.
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