Illinois State Lands Huge In-State Sleeper In 2017 Class

By Roy & Harv Schmidt

April 24, 2017

10:30 P.M. CST

There is no question that the Illinois State coaching staff does its homework on the recruiting trail.  And one of their foremost strengths in that area is the ability to uncover "hidden gems"--to identify unheralded recruits well ahead of other schools.  Sure enough, they succeeded in doing so again, this time with perhaps the most unsung prospect in Illinois from the 2017 class.

As a result, 6'8 2017 forward Taylor Bruninga of Illini Bluffs High School in Glasford, IL closed out his recruitment tonight by committing to the Redbirds and head coach Dan Muller. Bruninga's commitment was confirmed to us by his travel team coach--Gavin Sullivan of the Illinois Irish.  He chose Illinois State over offers from Loyola and Northern Iowa.

Bruninga took an official visit to the Normal campus the weekend of April 14-15.  Prior to that he had also taken an official to Northern Iowa, with Loyola being his final official visit this past weekend.

In the end, what proved to be the difference with respect to Bruninga's decision was the fact that the Redbirds were one of the first D1 schools to start recruiting him.  In fact, they were the second D1 program to offer him a scholarship.  Not only that, but Muller and the Redbird coaching staff were quite clear from the get-go as to how they see Bruninga fitting into their future plans.

At first Muller and company intended to have Bruninga redshirt next season and then be on scholarship the following year.  However, they also made it clear that there was a strong possibility that due to player turnover an additional scholarship could open up right away.  That is exactly what happened and as it turns out now, Bruninga will immediately be on scholarship next season.  He had also been offered a 4/4 deal at Loyola, while Northern Iowa had intended to give him a redshirt year.

As has been the case so often, in addition to Muller Redbirds Associate Head Coach Luke Yaklich was instrumental in getting this one done.  Yaklich was consistently present at Bruninga's games throughout the season and made him a huge point of emphasis.  And as indicated earlier, Bruninga and his family were most appreciative of Muller and Yaklich's up front approach.

Bruninga first caught our eye just over a year ago at the NY2LA Sports Swish 'N Dish Spring Warmup and at that time Illinois Prep Bulls-eye was the first scouting service to identify him as a potential D1 prospect.  He confirmed that evaluation even further with a strong performance at the Next Level Inviational during the July Evaluation Period.  As a result, Bruninga was named our Summer Award winner as the biggest hidden gem in the 2017 class (  He put up monster scoring numbers this past season for a high school team that finished with a 24-6 overall record.

There is no question that shooting is Bruninga's forte.  He has shown that he can be deadly from 3-point range along the baseline and the top of the circle when given the time to spot up.  However, those coaches that label Bruninga as strictly a shooter have not watched him consistently.  That is because he is much more versatile than people give him credit for, as he has athleticism, rebounds well and can defend on the perimeter. 

Bruninga becomes the fourth member of the 2017 recruiting class for Muller and the Redbirds.  He joins 6'4 point guard Elijah Clarence from Hagerstown, MD; 6'6 wing forward William Tinsley from Lake Land Junior College and 6'4 2-guard Zachary Copeland from City College Of San Francisco.


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