NEW YORK — Austin Colbert is headed to the Big Ten.
The 6-foot-9 power forward from Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) verbally pledged to Illinois in the SNY studios on Monday.
A native of Chesapeake, Va., Colbert chose the Illini and head coach John Groce over Miami, Seton Hall and Villanova.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to attend the University of Illinois,” Colbert said. “Fighting Illini.”
Many observers had Colbert penciled in for Villanova, but Colbert decided otherwise about a week ago.
“I decided to pick Illinois because I just want it to be the best fit for me,” he said. “I feel like coach John Groce is going to develop me into a person, develop me into a player and push me every day in practice. Not only does basketball have a big value for me, but academics as well.
“Illinois has the second-largest alumni network in the country, so basically after basketball if I handle my business in the classroom I’ll be good.”
Colbert is Illinois’s fifth commit in 2013, following point guard Jaylon Tate, shooting guards Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill and center Maverick Morgan.
Scout.com ranks Colbert as the No. 30 power forward in the Class of 2013.
Longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski offered this analysis of Colbert’s game.
“He has a lot of potential but the first thing he’s gotta to do is he’s got to get stronger,” he said. “He’s mobile, he’s agile, but he’s not yet hostile. And I think that’s a function of his lack of strength. He needs to really hit the weight room and get big-time stronger.
“But he’s a guy who’s a fluid athlete, who really covers the court like a guard and has good hands. He has a decent touch. And he just really needs to build up his body, to use his size to great advantage. He’s a guy with a world of potential and he’s a nice kid.
“He’s gotta transcend his off-the-court temperament and become a little meaner on the court.”
Colbert agreed with that analysis.
“I’m working hard every day,” he said. “I’m in the weight room, I’m on the court getting shots up so I expect to do big things this year.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.