NORMAL — Rey Idowu made a recruiting visit to Illinois State this week. That turned out to save University of Illinois coaches a visit to Florida.
Idowu, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward from Tampa, Fla., announced Friday he will sign a national letter of intent with ISU next month. Illinois was supposed to come and watch Idowu, who will play this season at Clearwater (Fla.) Academy International, work out next week before his decision to sign with the Redbirds.
NCAA rules prohibit ISU coach Dan Muller from commenting on recruits until they are signed.
"When I got up there (to Normal) it felt like home," said Idowu. "Coach Muller has taken great interest in me since he started recruiting me. When I got there the way he and the rest of coaching staff treated me, I could tell they were the real deal and they would make me a great person on and off the court."
Idowu said ISU assistant coach Brian "Penny" Collins had been recruiting him to East Tennessee State in the spring when Collins was an assistant there.
After Collins joined ISU this summer, the Redbirds began showing a strong interest in Idowu, who graduated in the spring from Holy Trinity High School in Melbourne, Fla., where he averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds per game last season.
"Illinois State is getting a throwback, a blue-collar worker, hard hat, rebounding, block shots, just a hard-nosed player," said Aaron Holmes, who is Clearwater Academy's coach and also coached Idowu with AAU Team Marreese Speights in Tampa.
"He plays hard and has a high motor. He's very athletic. He does a lot of the dirty work and can hit the 15-footer. He's an old-school type of big man."
Holmes said Idowu's work ethic in the classroom, where he is a straight-A student and scored 1350 on the SAT, carries over to the court.
In fact, Idowu said academics was a big reason he selected ISU. Idowu visited Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne last week and was drawing interest from other high-major teams besides Illinois, including Wichita State.
"Me taking academics seriously and wanting to major in finance and having the School of Business sponsored by State Farm was huge," said Idowu. "Seeing the facilities in the School of Business and also the athletic facilities and how they make their players better, it seemed to be perfect."
Idowu said he didn't have much recruiting interest after last season, so he decided to add a prep school year at Clearwater Academy International. After playing with Team Speights, Idowu started to get noticed.
"I had quite a few offers to play this year, but I didn't want to rush through the recruiting process," he said. "That led to taking a post graduate year, and I'm glad I did."
Holmes said Muller assured him Idowu would fit in with the Redbirds' style.
"Rey would fit in anybody's system because he plays hard and plays with that passion, grit and toughness," said Holmes. "He holds himself accountable. He's a leader."
Idowu becomes ISU's second recruit in the Class of 2018. Last month, 6-9, 190-pound Demontay Dixon of Spring Hill, Tenn., announced he would sign a national letter of intent with the Redbirds next month.
ISU also got a verbal commitment from Bloomington High School 6-7 junior Chris Payton last month. Payton can't sign until November 2018.