Hoosiers remain strong with 2015 forward Alex Illikainen

  • 05/28/2014 8:45 am in

After receiving a scholarship offer from Indiana last summer and then taking an unofficial visit to Bloomington in January, class of 2015 Grand Rapids (Minn.) forward Alex Illikainen remains in regular contact with the Hoosier staff.

The 6-foot-9, 210 pound Illikainen is playing with Howard Pulley on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) circuit this spring and summer after previously playing with the Minnesota Cyclones.

The move to Howard Pulley, which is based in Minneapolis, has increased the amount of travel necessary for Illikainen. His home in Grand Rapids is more than three hours away from where the team practices.

“I live three and half hours away and come down Tuesdays and Thursdays for practice,” he said. “For the EYBL sessions, I usually stay over and we fly out early Friday morning for the EYBL. So, it’s kind of tough to keep up with it (and) stay fresh and that kind of stuff and still go to school, but I manage and just keep track of my time and make the best of the situation. It’s been absolutely worth it.”

Pulley finished the EYBL regular season with a 10-6 mark, which qualified for the Peach Jam in July, Nike’s premier event of the summer. Illikainen is averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds and is shooting 44.8 percent on 3s.

He admitted there was a transition period in getting acclimated to EYBL play, which features many of the nation’s top players.

“Yeah, absolutely. Just coming out of high school and coming to this. It was a huge change,” Illikainen said. “Even just coming to practice for the first couple of days, preparing with these type of players was really hard. I feel like I’ve transitioned really good. Now I feel more comfortable, I can slow down and it’s a lot easier now.”

As a junior at Grand Rapids, he averaged 26 points and 15 rebounds per game and also surpassed the 2,000-point plateau for his prep career.

Recruiting wise, not much has changed in recent months for Illikainen. He took his first official visit in January to California, which now has a new coach in Cuonzo Martin, and is also considering offers from Creighton, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and several others.

“I’m just going to go to Peach Jam and then after that I’ll kind of figure everything out,” he said. “If I want to take more visits or want to narrow it down … so, pretty much after the Peach Jam.”

In terms of his interest in Indiana, Illikainen remains in contact with two members of the staff who are most involved in his recruitment.

“Took my unofficial there (in January). Went to the (Northwestern) game and that was a great visit,” Illikainen said. “I’m still in touch with the coaches a lot – coach Tim Buckley and coach (Tom) Crean also.”

At the college level, Illikainen projects as a stretch four because of his ability to step out and knock down perimeter shots. The 247 Composite ranks him as the top prospect in his class from Minnesota and the No. 65 prospect overall in the country.

As the spring and summer move on, he has a detailed list of areas where he wants to continue refining his game.

“Be better dribbling, be more comfortable around the floor,” he said. “If I get a guy bigger than me (guarding me), be able to take him to the hole and not get stripped or anything like that. Just gotta touch up on some around-the-basket post moves. The guys are just so athletic that you need to have a little trick move in there to get it up to the basket. And then I’m just going keep shooting.”

J.B. Bauer contributed to this story.

(Photo credit: GrandRapidsMN.com)

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  • CreamandCrimson

    He certainly fits the mold of what we are looking for at that spot. 6’9″, long and can shoot from the perimeter. I think it’s clear that we never want to be in a position like we were last year (unable to throw the ball in the ocean from the beach) and shooting is being absolutely emphasized in our recruiting efforts.

    I kind of wonder how many guys who fit his description we actually need. This is not to say that I wouldn’t be happy if Illikainen decided to come play for us, he looks like a high-quality player that would fit in our system. But, with Hoetzel, Priller and Hartman (all 6’6″-6’10” alleged shooters) already on the roster, how much space is there for another seemingly similar type player? I really don’t know the answer to that question but if I were ranking “needs”, stretch 4 would certainly be lower than low post big guy and point guard.

  • JWaltFTW

    I agree completely. I believe we’re good on shooters at multiple positions for years to come. A highly touted big man is what we need next year, and a pure point guard for 2016. A FR PG in 2016 will be manageable with Stan, RJ, and hopefully JB still on campus.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Ideally, I’d love to have a point guard in the 2015 class to back-up Yogi for 10-15 minutes a game and learn behind the senior leader. However, I don’t know how many really good point guards are interested in a role like that when other places will offer them the chance to be a starting PG from day one.

    We might be in better future position at the point than we think if Robert Johnson can develop into a full-time point guard. I don’t know if that’s ideal but I think it could be an interesting option because of his size.

  • N71

    Agree. A big has obviously been a large concern due to the 2 we had leaving and the 3rd unable to play. We’ve added 1 that will need time so another for 2015 would seem paramount….and we’re working toward that, we’re looking at a number of bigs including Zimmerman.

    I’m starting to worry more about replacing Yogi having taken him for granted. Replacing his ball handling, speed, personality, and decision making will surely be difficult.

  • PocketHoosier

    So, recent articles on Illikainen, Zimmerman, Crawford, and Giddens. I’m more than happy to see updates on the recruiting progress of those players, but where’s Diamond Stone at? I haven’t heard anything about him for the past few months.

    Is he still in play?

  • Not really, looking at going to the same school with Malik Newman.

  • PocketHoosier

    crappity crap

  • Hoosier Hall

    Wow! That will be a nice 1-2 punch. Newman can fill it up and Stone is a beast. Sweet package deal for whoever lands them.

  • marcusgresham

    I’m going to buck the racial comparison trend here; this kid reminds me in a lot of ways of Christian Watford.

  • marcusgresham

    RJ could become one of those Sleepy Floyd-type PGs who can run the show but can also drop 40 on you.

  • marcusgresham

    Yesterday on here I saw a little blurb on the side (may have been a Twitter link, not sure–I don’t do Twitter,) from Shake Milton saying IU is one of the 3 hitting him the hardest but I haven’t heard anything about him and when I went to Rivals & 247 to see if there was more info IU wasn’t even listed.
    Do we know anything about him?

  • SCHoosier

    This kid has size and a nice shooting touch. I would have some concerns about the level of high school competition he has faced..so lets see how Alex does on the AAU circuit against the better players. I’d think Rich Pitino would be all over this guy??!! Never seen a b-ball player wear a glove before..altho last year’s Hoosiers looked like they had on boxing gloves for too many games (given the TO’s) This is a kid to watch..hope we at least get him on campus one more time.

  • Alford Bailey

    Sleepy Floyd……man your’e old.

  • skotchie

    I think your right on with RJ, he can already shoot an seems like the type of kid who could easily develope point skills.

  • skotchie

    I would agree surprised if young Pitino isn’t all over this kid. Also reeks of a Wisconsin recruit or an IU recruit that bolts at x-mas time.

  • deebo

    I think this kid is very underrated.

  • deebo

    Lets say experienced.

  • JWaltFTW

    LOL I was hoping someone noticed that as much as I did. I don’t think of it as harmful when people do it, but maybe a little lazy on their part?

  • marcusgresham

    I remember when he put up 25 in the 4th quarter against the Lakers in the playoffs.
    On a smaller scale, I remember when Pat Graham did the exact same thing to Jeffersonville.

  • SCHoosier

    Thank you! I always reject the “senior label”..preferring instead “experienced adult.”:)