10 Names You'll Learn In 2022
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This is year nine for this article. And you're not going to find a worse list than last year. I always start this post with a look back at the list from the previous year but right now I'm debating whether to even do that. It was just so, so bad. Ten Names You're Not Going To Recognize.
The first time I wrote this article on New Years Eve in 2013? I told you that you would learn of this walkon safety named Clayton Fejedelem and that we needed to land this running back in DeKalb named Dre Brown and that Justin Hardee's speed was something to watch. Last year? Well, I'll just reduce it to two paragraphs and skip the typical bolded-out list since it's just so, so bad.
Last year I picked Ellie Holzman as the volleyball breakout player and then she tore her ACL and missed the spring and fall seasons. I said that Daniel Edwards would be the football freshman who played immediately but he redshirted. For golf I picked West Virginia transfer Nico Lang but he faltered and by the time May rolled around the rotation was set with Feagles-Tadiotto-Ji-Kuhl-ADdC. I also said Danny McGuire was the football recruit to watch and then he picked Northwestern. Rounding out the first five names on my list was a name you probably did learn: Randy Ballard, the Director of Sports Medicine who set all of the Covid policies over the last year.
For the basketball recruit I picked AJ Casey, and he picked Miami (although it's worth noting that one year ago he was a 5-star and ranked 20th in the 2022 rankings - he fell to 56th when the September RSCI came out and has fallen out of several top-100 lists). I chose gymnast Shaylah Scott because she looked to be a budding superstar... but she had to medically retire from gymnastics due to a hip injury. You did learn the name Bart Miller (offensive line coach), and Branden Comia was third-team All Big Ten at shortstop. My final pick was Joey Biggs, assistant AD for basketball (and the guy more or less in charge of making sure we got to the 2021 Tournament with no Covid issues).
I probably feel the worst about picking Ellie Holzman and Shaylah Scott. I choose them as "names you'll learn" and then you learn their names when one tears her ACL and the other medically retires from her sport. Let's find some names you'll actually learn in 2022, shall we?
1. Kaden Feagin
We'll get this one out of the way right at the start. There's a 4-star football recruit in ARTHUR. He goes to ALAH High School, which is a combination of two schools I remember from my time working at the News Gazette in the mid-90's: Arthur-Lovington and Atwood-Hammond. They now compete as Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. Maybe they'll just keep going in the future? "This weekend it's a big matchup between Warrensburg-Latham-Argenta-Oreana-Maroa-Forsyth against Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond-Macon-Meridian-Central A&M".
Anyway, down in Arthur, which I believe is the largest Amish community in Illinois, there's a 4-star athlete named Kaden Feagin. He already has offers from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. I never want to make a player a "must get", but if there's a player we must get, it's him. Remember Lou Henson's orange blazers? He bought them at Delbert's in Arthur. We cannot lose a kid who is that close to campus.
I just google-mapped the distance from Arthur to Memorial Stadium and I had the setting on "walking" (because I looked up how long it would take to walk somewhere in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday). So it told me that it would take 11 hours and 45 minutes to walk from downtown Arthur to Memorial Stadium. If you can walk from somewhere to the stadium in less than 12 hours, you have to land that kid. You just have to.
2. Raina Terry
You probably already learned her name, although maybe not. The volleyball team brought Megan Cooney back from a Covid bonus season, and she was great, earning All-Region honors, but by the end of the season she was out-killed by sophomore Raina Terry. And in the Round-of-32 matchup with #7 Kentucky, Terry had her breakout moment with 27 kills, the 6th most in a postseason match in Illini history. 27 kills in a 4-set match is insanely good. Probably the number one reason Illini volleyball upset defending national champion Kentucky to reach the Sweet 16.
So for the next two seasons, it's Raina Terry's team. Everything Jackie Quade pulled off a few years ago - back-to-back 1st Team All Big Ten plus a 1st-team All American honor - is right there for Terry in 2022 and 2023.
3. Dain Dainja
I wish I hadn't just written the Dain Dainja LLUOI because then this would be more of an "oh yeah, I kind of forgot about him" moment. There's a lot of discussion about Ty Rodgers, Jayden Epps, and Sencire Harris coming in next year, but maybe the most important new name is Baylor transfer Dain Dainja. Kofi will almost certainly be gone (although I did say that last year), and both Omar Payne and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk fall in the "defense and rebounding" category, so we're going to need a big man to score in the low post. That big man will hopefully be Dain Dainja.
He missed his freshman season at Baylor after having surgery, then only played sparingly in Baylor's first four games this season, so he entered the portal. Next year he'll be a three-years-removed-from-HS big man ready to prove that Baylor was just a bad fit and he really is a 4-star big man who can play high major basketball.
4. Miles Scott
I don't do it every season, but I try to pick a football walkon for this list whenever I can. This list is the first time you saw me mention walkon WR Donny Navarro and the first time you saw me mention walkon safety Clayton Fejedelem. Both of those were before they played a single snap.
For Miles Scott, he has played snaps. In four games this fall (Penn State, Rutgers, Minnesota, and Northwestern). He even started the Rutgers game. He did not record any statistics, but when a freshman walkon wide receiver starts a game in late October, you have to pay attention. Even if it's just a "we will motivate the starter by starting a walkon in his place" kind of thing. Taz Nicholson started two games over Tony Adams in September, and it both A) let us know that we need to pay attention to Taz in the future and B) sparked Tony Adams to have a fantastic Big Ten season.
So for walkon WR Miles Scott, well, pay attention to him in the future.
5. Piercen Hunt
This one doesn't feel like a risk (like Nico Lang was a risk last year). If anything, this might be a "but I already know his name" kind of thing. But he wasn't part of the rotation when the golf team reached Match Play last year, so for those of you who don't pay attention until the spring season, well, pay attention. Because I feel like Piercen Hunt could be special.
In his most recent tournament this past fall, he won. That was a really big deal. A lot of big names in college golf were there - JM Martin from Auburn, Cameron Sisk and David Puig from Arizona State as well as Hunt's entire Illini team - and Hunt won the tournament. That was following a fourth-place finish at the Blessings Invitational against other top-25 college golfers. So while ADdC is currently 16th in the PGA Tour University rankings and Jerry Ji is 56th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (ADdC is 38th), Hunt was probably the #1 player on the team this fall (his first full season of competition after being the 6th-man last spring). You'll hear his name a lot the next three springs.
6. Kailee Powell
Both the baseball and softball seasons were strange last year because they were reduced to conference-only schedules. It was a really quick season - play the conference games and then that's that. So people probably weren't aware of Kailee Powell's breakout season. She hit .259 and .161 her first two seasons but then last year she slashed .328/.409/.550 and suddenly she's first team All Big Ten.
Now she (hopefully) gets a "normal" college softball season. In 2020 he season was suddenly cut short on March 12th. In 2021, the season was reduced to conference games only. Now, a senior season where she can hopefully repeat her 1st Team All Big Ten/All Defensive Team combo.
7. Kylan Boswell
If Kaden Feagin is the biggest local football recruit in a long time, Kylan Boswell is the biggest kinda-local basketball recruit. He's from Champaign but now plays for Compass Prep in Arizona. So he's not "local", but... growing up he could walk to the State Farm Center so just apply all of the rules above. He's also currently a consensus 5-star in the 2023 class.
I just went to look up to see if he's technically from Champaign or Urbana and I landed on this article which is one of those bot articles. Gonna press pause on this post to cut-and-paste some of the better lines from that article:
The last five months have served as a statement by Kylan Boswell. If you do, his entry will take part in a conversation about the outlook for the country's top high school basketball. Why couldn't it be done? Boswell only built up the championship after the June-August championship.
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT AGREE, bot.
"I'm not going to lie. It was pretty crazy," Boswell told The News-Gazette. "Much of this attention is sometimes a little overwhelming, but I think it did a good job. It's definitely a lesson to get all these opportunities and win them. In a pretty crazy summer. bottom."
Illinois is one of many major programs offered to Boswell and was held this summer before his series of championships. He remains Blood Underwood's top priority in the 2023 recruitment class.
Trent Meecham trained early in the morning at YMCA when he returned to Champaign during a break in his professional career abroad. About five years ago, a former Centennial prominent Illinois security guard shared court time at 5:30 am with junior high school students for the first time.
It was Meicham's introduction to Kiran Boswell, his former Centennial classmate and son of his friend Brandon Boswell. Meacham quickly realized that still teens could eventually become special basketball players.
Trent Meicham, prominent security guard.
Anyway, Boswell is from Chambana. He now plays for a private school in Arizona. He's a five-star. He'd be the biggest Illini recruit in a long, long time.
8. Justin Janas
Did you know that the Big Ten batting champion was an Illinois freshman? You didn't? See what I mean about the baseball and softball teams being in a weird situation with the conference-only schedule last year?
Justin Janas was the Big Ten batting champion last year, hitting .391. He also led the Big Ten in on-base percentage (.506). Then he goes and plays in the Northwoods League this summer... and he's the batting champion there as well, hitting .402 for the Kenosha Kingfish.
So this one is the same as Kailee Powell above. Had a rough year in 2020 in a season that was shortened to less than a month by Covid shutting everything down. Then a breakout year in 2021 during the conference-only schedule. Now he gets a third (technically sophomore) season with a full schedule where he can hopefully continue to hit around .400.
9. Olivia Howell
The male Dike Eddleman winner last year: Ayo Dosunmu. The female Dike Eddleman award winner: Olivia Howell. Something she might do... three times?
As a freshman in 2020, Howell had some solid numbers during indoor season but then the entire outdoor season was canceled by the pandemic. She returned last year and dominated Big Tens - she won the mile during indoor season and then won the 1500 during outdoor season. That earned her the female Eddleman award. Next up: better numbers and a push for the NCAA podium. And maybe two more Eddleman awards.
10. Josh Kreutz
I just wrote about James Kreutz (and I gave him 4.25 Cruises). But he's not the first Kreutz to pick Illinois. His older brother Josh was a freshman offensive lineman who redshirted this season. And remember, "redshirted" includes all players who played in four or less games. Kreutz played in three games, so he returns next season as a redshirt freshman.
Given his bloodlines (his dad was a six-time Pro Bowl center with the Bears) and the fact that they used him this past season, I think he has a really good shot at being the starting center next year. Maybe he's still a year away, and if so, I'll regret adding him to this list one year too soon. But I already told you about the kid who will have JA KREUTZ on the back of his jersey, and I need to remind you that the kid who has JO KREUTZ on the back of his jersey is pretty good as well. Decent chance this Kreutz is the starting center for the next four years.