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Western Illinois makes splash in real life, too

Rob Jeter landed arguably the program’s best-ever recruit from an all-important recruiting area.

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 09 Milwaukee at Cleveland State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Western Illinois notched a major offseason win, and this time it doesn’t involve the legendary Ricky Charisma.

First-year Leathernecks coach Rob Jeter got a verbal commitment from Chicago Curie wing Ramean Hinton on Saturday, adding a big boost to his first recruiting class. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Michael O’Brien labeled Hinton — a Rivals three-star prospect — possibly the biggest recruit in program history.

And for good reason.

Hinton, an Illinois Class 4A first-teamer, reportedly held offers from Saint Louis, Boise State, Kent State and Cleveland State, among other schools. That Jeter was able to beat out those schools — some of which seem ticketed for big things next season — and convince Hinton to join a program that hasn’t had a winning season in 2013 seemingly bodes well for the first-year coach.

Behind it all is also the potential for an even bigger story.

Jeter’s staff includes Nick Irvin, the former coach of Chicago Public League powerhouse Morgan Park whose father (Mac) started Mac Irvin Fire, a stalwart AAU program in the Windy City. Consistently tapping into the Public League’s talent has long been an aspirational talking point for many programs throughout Illinois, both big and small. In the flesh, it helped boost Loyola Chicago to its Final Four run in 2018, with Donte Ingram (Simeon) and Lucas Williamson (Whitney Chicago) staying home to play for the Ramblers and contribute to that magical run.

Jeter must hope Irvin can help establish that pipeline to Macomb, and talked about what Irvin brought to the program in a release.

Nick Irvin checks those boxes. Nick is a winner. He’s an energetic, successful head coach who has proven to develop high-level student-athletes,” added Jeter. “I have a ton of respect for Nick and the Irvin family. For such a big city, the Chicago basketball community is tight-knit, and the Irvins have strong ties. Coming back to Chicago and giving one of our own an opportunity was a priority for me, and I’m excited to have Nick join us at Western!”

WIU is not a recent stranger to the Chicago recruiting scene. Former coach Billy Wright landed Zion Young, a Simeon graduate who put together a quality sophomore season (13.2 PPG, 41.3 3P%, 4.5 RPG) before transferring to Oakland when Wright was let go. But in landing Hinton, Jeter has made his own immediate mark in the most crucial of recruiting areas for a program looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

The rangy, 6’5’’ wing had originally committed to Southeast Missouri State before reconsidering his options when the Redhawks moved on from Rick Ray. He joins a Leatherneck team that loses all five starters, including standouts Young, potential-laden wing Ben Pyle (who transferred to San Diego) and established point guard Kobe Webster (who transferred to Nebraska).

The Curie star should have the chance for immediate playing time in an eight-man recruiting class that features a number of JuCo players and Division III All-American in Monmouth (Ill.) College’s Will Carius. Jeter — who spent over decade leading Milwaukee — must hope that landing Hinton was just the beginning of a Chicago-to-Macomb pipeline.