By ADAM ZAGORIA
R.J. Melendez, the 6-foot-7, 180-pound wing from Central Pointe Christian (FL), committed to Illinois on Monday.
Ranked the No. 21 small forward in the 247Sports Composite, Melendez said he also considered Georgia, Oklahoma State and Florida.
“I’ll be taking my talents to the University of Illinois,” he said in a phone interview prior to his public announcement, adding that he made his decision a couple of weeks ago.
“I felt like the connection between me and Coach [Orlando] Antigua and Coach [Brad] Underwood, it was a really great connection. They were always texting me and checking in on me and every day. Their style of play, I see myself in it really, really well and the other part is that Andre Curbelo is right there and we’re both Puerto Rican so the chemistry is going to be a lot better.” Melendez said he speaks Spanish with Antigua.
Curbelo, a freshman who played at Long Island Lutheran High School, is averaging 7.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds for No. 5 Illinois.
Melendez, who can play the 2, 3 and 4, is averaging 20.4 points,, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists 2.8 blocks and 2.4 steals at Central Pointe Christian.
“R.J. is a Swiss Army knife on the floor,” coach Carlos Morales said. “He does a lot of other things besides scoring at a high level. On top of that he has a very high IQ and this will help him make a smooth transition to college. I think he will be in the NBA in the future and this will help him get there.”