Mundelein's Ben Brust, right, is investigating other college basketball options after the coach that recruited him to Iowa, Todd Lickliter, was fired.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
Let the games begin. Again.
The high-stakes game of college basketball recruiting is suddenly back on Ben Brust's plate, which is not what he had planned at all.
At this point in his senior year, the star Mundelein guard had thought that he would be operating mostly on cruise control, and enjoying the lighter side of being a teenager in his final days of high school.
"You're thinking that you're going to be having some fun, (coasting) a little bit. But coasting is definitely not the word for me right now," Brust said with a laugh. "Things are pretty crazy again."
The apple cart was turned upside down in mid-March, when Iowa head men's basketball coach Todd Lickliter was fired just three years into his tenure there. Part of the problem was that the Hawkeyes had strung together three straight losing seasons under Lickliter, including this year's 10-22 campaign.
Brust was a Lickliter recruit.
He had signed early with Iowa last fall, so when the unfortunate news about Lickliter hit, he suddenly found himself at a crossroads about a decision that he had been firmly set on since last July, when he first committed to Iowa.
"I went to the Big Ten Tournament (last month) and watched the Iowa-Michigan game and that day there were rumors that he was resigning," Brust said of Lickliter. "A couple days later, it was announced that he got fired. Because I had talked to so many people from Iowa who were close to the situation, I kept hearing it was going to happen. So I guess I was kind of prepared for it.
"But still, when it happened, it was a bad feeling. I was a little upset. I got to know Coach Lickliter and his staff pretty well and they made me feel comfortable. When he got fired, everything changed."
Including Brust's once ironclad status as a Hawkeye.
Brust confirmed on Tuesday that he asked Iowa and new head coach Fran McCaffery for a release from his National Letter of Intent, and that his request was granted. He has re-opened the recruiting process and will entertain all offers, including his original offer from Iowa, which is still on the table if he wants it.
But the table is suddenly crowded. Brust now has to sort through all the other offers that have been pouring in ever since he made his announcement on Monday.
"I have Iowa stickers all over my car. I still like Iowa and I'm not knocking it off the list. I'm still very interested in Iowa," said Brust, who used to joke about how he was so into Iowa that he had gotten into the habit of wearing nothing but Iowa clothes and gear to school. "At this point I just need to spend some time getting to know Coach McCaffery. We talk every day and I like what I've heard from him. But now, I also have offers from other schools that would be good opportunities as well.
"I just have to have an open mind to what these other coaches have to say and do what's best for me."
Brust, who averaged 24.6 points and hit a whopping 83 3-pointers this season en route to scoring more than 1,700 career points, says he's received offers from Boston College, Wisconsin and Cal, and that coaches from all three schools will be visiting his home this weekend.
Northwestern, which was one of his three finalists originally (along with Iowa and Butler), Wake Forest and Minnesota are also expressing serious interest.
Brust has found it interesting that some schools that weren't in the mix the first time around have entered the ring this time.
"I think what happened is that a lot of these coaches saw me play last summer, but after I had already committed to Iowa because I committed on July 1, which is the first day of the summer evaluation period," Brust said. "Maybe they liked what I did last summer, but they knew I had already committed somewhere else. Maybe they also heard about what I did (this winter) during the high school season. That's why they're interested now.
"It's definitely interesting to see who is in the mix this time. But, hey, I'm not complaining. This whole process has been time-consuming and kind of stressful, but in a way, it's been fun. This is an exciting and pretty cool experience. I never imagined I'd be doing this all again, having coaches in my living room, all that."
Brust says that there is no immediate timeframe for his decision, only that he needs to make up his mind by the last official signing day, which is May 14.
"If it takes all the way until the last signing day, I'll do that," Brust said. "This is a big decision and I'm going to take as much time as I need to make sure what I decide is right for me."
Brust still has four of the five official campus visits that are allotted to him at his disposal. The only official visit he's ever taken was last fall, after he already committed to Iowa. He went there during a home football weekend in which Iowa played Michigan.
He says he plans on using up all of his remaining campus visits before he makes his final decision.
"I need to get a good look at what else is out there," Brust said. "Even if that's just to decide that Iowa is still the right place for me.
"There are a lot of options out there to explore. The good thing is, whatever I choose, I really don't think I can go wrong."
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