Yesterday was supposed to be a day of celebration for Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker.
Arguably the best basketball player in the state, he had finally trimmed his list of over a dozen potential schools down to 3- Xavier, Iowa State, and the University of Illinois, and was ready to make his decision. A decision that every young Chicago hooper wishes they’d have the chance to make. A chance to move one step closer to the ultimate dream of playing in the NBA. But as Talen sat center stage last night at Simeon Academy, with his mother and head coach sitting next to him for support, there was an obvious cloud hanging over the situation. Reports spread that Horton-Tucker’s scholarship offer to the University Of Illinois had been pulled thanks to an ultimatum given by The Irvin Family, who represent the AAU powerhouse Mac Irvin Fire and U Of I’s latest recruit and Morgan Park star, Ayo Dosunmu. Reports said that Horton-Tucker was hopeful to commit to U Of I but once The Irvin’s got wind of the decision, contacted Illinois brass with one simple demand- pick one- Ayo or Talen- with Illinois sticking with Ayo and as a result, Talen committing to the Cyclones of Iowa St.
However, The Bigs have learned from a source close to the situation that the University Of Illinois, in fact, never took their scholarship offer to Talen Horton-Tucker off the table and confirmed to us the events that took place leading up to Talen's decision to commit to Iowa St. Here’s what the source confirmed to us:
The Fire/Irvin Family DID NOT want to see Talen Horton-Tucker join Ayo Dosunmu at the University Of Illinois.
It was all good when Talen Horton-Tucker was a member of the Mac Irvin Fire's summer AAU squad, but Talen's decision to leave the Fire because of issues with how his minutes were being handled to play for Team Rose last Spring left a bad taste in The Fire/Irvin Family's mouth. Sides were quickly chosen by the adults involved and thanks to tweets sent out from the Mac Irvin Fire's twitter page, it was safe to say that Talen no longer had them in his corner, which later lead to a full fledged attempt to block the potential dynamic duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Talen Horton-Tucker on the Fighting Illini by the Irvin Family.
Illinois recruited Talen Horton-Tucker up until 15 minutes before his decision and NEVER pulled their scholarship offer.
The Irvin Family's feelings about Talen Horton-Tucker did not stop Illinois from recruiting both Ayo and Talen. They wanted them both...bad. So much that Ronald "Chen" Coleman, the lead recruiter for both Ayo and Talen, presented the duo with their scholarship offers on the very same day. Furthermore, Ayo making his commitment to the Fighting Illini official last week did not deter them from trying to land Talen. In fact, they were in the mix with Horton-Tucker up until 15 minutes before he made his decision to commit to Iowa State and never pulled their scholarship offer at any time.
The Iowa State Cyclones were Talen Horton-Tucker's #1 choice.
The Cyclones were the very first team to express interest in Talen and they never let up on their interest. With over a dozen schools wrestling for the chance to land Talen, Iowa St. developed the best relationship with him and always seemed like the perfect fit. When the time came to make a decision... he made a basketball decision to join the program that gave him the best chance to succeed. Illinois already being guard heavy made the decision easier for Talen...and he is now a Cyclone joining fellow Class Of 2018 standout George Conditt of Corliss.
There is absolutely NO BEEF between Ayo Dosunmu and Talen Horton-Tucker.
Those connected to the Chicago basketball scene know that there is an ugly side to this game. That side reared its head in the Talen and Ayo to Illinois situation. However, besides the grudge held by The Irvin Family, the friendship between the two athletes involved was never effected. In fact, Ayo, much like Illinois coach Brad Underwood and "Chen" Coleman, loved the idea of Talen Horton-Tucker joining him on the Fighting Illini. The two spoke of the potential link up as late as Tuesday with the conversation ending with Ayo expressing to Talen to only do what's best for him. With both of them now happy to be done making their official commitments and ready to get back to having fun on the court, they both have an eye to show out during this upcoming boys basketball season.
Yesterday was an attempt to rain on the parade of a young man who deserves the celebration and not the cloud that was hanging over his head by no fault of his own. However, what was made clear last night is that the pipeline to UofI from Chicago goes straight through The Mac Irvin Fire/Irvin Family.
Attempts to reach the Irvin Family, University Of Illinois Men's Basketball team and University Of Illinois athletic department were not responded to.