Illinois: 25 Student-Athletes to Watch in 2015-16

Dick Butkus was a Chicago Bear after he starred for the state flagship Fighting Illini, but athletes to watch hail from 10 schools in Bradley, DePaul, Illinois Fighting Illini, Illinois St., Lake Forest College, Loyola Chicago, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, SIU-Edwardsville, Southern Illinois, and Western Illinois with the Academic All-American Player of the Year (Ashley Luke, pictured).

We ran the Value Add Sports calculations on all returning Illinois athletes and emailed 93 sports writers and other experts in the state to help rank the 25 state players to watch on a list we will update here.

The Illini men’s basketball team projects No. 26 in the country at www.valueaddbasketball.com, behind three of the top 30 players in the rugged Big Ten. Malcolm Hunt from that team leads the list of the top Illini student-athletes to watch, but Ashley Luke could challenge for that spot if she plays her final year. All Luke did was graduate in three years while ranking as an All-Summit League player each season. She was the first Summit League female to win the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year. Western Illinois fans would love to see her back on the court this year.

The top 25 list below has representatives from several basketball teams, as well as top track and field and soccer stars.

  1. Malcolm Hill, Illinois, Basket, PF
  2. Ashley Luke, Western Illinois, Women’s Basketball
  3. Paris Lee, Illinois St., Basket, PG
  4. Darius Paul, Illinois, Basket, PF
  5. Jasmine Brown, Western Illinois, Track/Field, Triple Jump
  6. Mike Thorne, Illinois, Basket, C
  7. Wes Lunt, Illinois Fighting Illini, Foot, QB
  8. Alex Olah, Northwestern, Basket, C
  9. Britten Petrey, Illinois, Track/Field, 3,000m Steeplechase
  10. Alexa Ben, DePaul, Soccer, Midfielder
  11. Jessica Oranika, SIU-Edwardsville, Track/Field, 400m Dash
  12. Billy Garrett, DePaul, Basket, SG
  13. Ashley Luke, Western Illinois, Basketball,
  14. Emily Delvo, Bradley, Track/Field, 5,000m Run
  15. Tre Harris, SIU-Edwardsville, Basket, SG
  16. Jasmine Brown, Western Illinois, Track, Triple Jump
  17. Darius Smith, SIU-Edwardsville, Track/Field, 200m Dash
  18. Devon Turk, Loyola Chicago, Basket, PG
  19. Michael Ward, Bradley, Track/Field, 1,500m Run
  20. Aidan Conlon, Northern Illinois Huskies, Foot, OLine
  21. Elizabeth Endy, DePaul, Soccer, Defender
  22. Tyra Bickham, Northern Illinois, Track/Field, Discus Throw
  23. Alexus Scott, Southern Illinois, Track/Field, Hammer Throw
  24. Leo Podolsky, Lake Forest College, Hockey-Men,
  25. Michelle Greeneway, Lake Forest College, Hockey-Women


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