NORMAL — CJ Wilbourn felt a positive vibe during an offseason Elite Camp at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"I liked the way they coached ... the way they communicate with players," Wilbourn said.
This past weekend, the Normal Community High School senior basketball standout made a return trip, this time on an official visit.
"It reaffirmed everything I saw at the Elite Camp," he said. "I believe they can make me a better player and a better person."
That led the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Wilbourn to announce he has accepted a scholarship from Milwaukee head coach Pat Baldwin to play for the Division I Panthers.
Wilbourn averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season at NCHS in his second year as a starter and third year on the varsity. His 50 percent field goal accuracy included 37 percent from 3-point range.
He made 23 3-pointers, blocked 28 shots, took 17 charges and averaged 1.6 assists per game.
Wilbourn also had a scholarship offer from American University and was considering Cornell, Northwest Missouri State and Quincy among others. He will sign a national letter of intent in November with Milwaukee.
"They like to get the ball and go and their big guys run the floor," Wilbourn said of the Panthers, whose coaching staff includes former Illinois State and Illinois assistant Paris Parham. "Coach Baldwin has no problem with big guys taking 3s or taking it off the dribble to the basket."
Wilbourn said he has worked on his 3-point shooting and driving to the basket in the summer with his AAU team, the Quad City Elite.
Milwaukee was 16-17 last season in the first year under Baldwin, a former Northwestern player and assistant coach. The record was a five-win improvement from the previous season for the Panthers, who play in the Horizon League.
"Coach Baldwin wants to build a strong foundation," Wilbourn said. "Just to be a part of it, I'm happy. I want to help the program get more wins. That's always the goal."
A fine student, Wilbourn's ability in the classroom helped create some opportunities. Cornell was among several Ivy League schools to show interest.
He plans to major in computer science at Milwaukee.
"It's hard to find a guy his height with his grades who can shoot the 3," NCHS coach Dave Witzig said. "He had a great summer with our program and with his AAU team.
"CJ has done a great job in the classroom and in the hallways at Normal Community. I'm really happy for him. He's a big man who can do a lot of different things, including shoot the 3. He's a great teammate. And he'll be in the Midwest so we'll get a chance to see him a lot."
Witzig heard Baldwin speak at a recent Illinois Basketball Coaches Association clinic at Illinois Wesleyan.
Baldwin's words led Witzig to believe "CJ really fits well with him (Baldwin) having big men handle the ball a little bit and shoot 3s."
"I really like Coach Baldwin. He seems like a real high-character guy," Witzig said. "And of course we know Coach Parham from his ISU days.
"CJ has been a lot of fun to coach. He's a humble, hard-working guy. He's the kind of guy people like to root for."
NCAA rules prohibit Baldwin from commenting until Wilbourn signs his letter of intent.