CRETE | Shortly after making his future with the orange and blue official Wednesday morning, Michael Orris turned his attention back to the blue and gold.
Crete-Monee's senior point guard signed a letter of intent with the University of Illinois, thereby completing a somewhat chaotic recruiting period. Once committed to Creighton University, Orris shifted gears following the dismissal of then-Crete coach Matt Ryndak.
"I felt like he controlled a lot of my recruiting process, so I needed to do it over -- kind of press the restart button and just go through the process again," Orris said. "And Illinois was the one. Academically and athletically, it's a great fit for me."
Orris fills Illinois' only open scholarship for the class of 2012. Illini coach Bruce Weber called him an important addition to the team, saying the 6-foot-2 Orris will give the team depth at point guard.
"The thing we really like about Michael is he is a point guard," Weber said. "He has a great feel for the game, he understands the game (and) he enjoys passing the ball as much as shooting the ball."
Weber called Orris a "winner" for the way he led Crete-Monee to last year's IHSAA Elite Eight, and a competitor for how hard he works on the court.
"He loves to play," Weber said, "and when he plays, he's got a little bit of feistiness to him."
Before he embarks on his collegiate career, though, Orris wants to help Crete try to complete an unfinished journey. While the Warriors enjoyed their greatest basketball season ever last winter, their failure to reach Peoria still gnaws at Orris.
"Our goal is the state championship, bottom line," he said. "We have a lot of talent here, so I don't foresee any problems. We'll have a bull's-eye on our back, but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Crete will also have its share of doubters, as two main contributors from a year ago -- all-area forward Jamee Crockett (DePaul) and all-area center Greg Mays (Wisconsin-Green Bay) -- have moved on. Four-year varsity guard Kentrell King has also graduated.
"People are going to say what they want to say," Orris said. "(Some of them) thought we weren't going to have a good season last year and look what happened.
"(We plan on) having just as good a year as we did last year. We've got to build on that, and now I get to put all of my focus into that."
Orris drew raves for his team-first mentality as a junior, when his passing skills provided the Warriors with a valuable ingredient they had previously been missing. He'll assume a similar role when he gets to Champaign, but Orris' senior season will feature the point guard becoming a greater point producer.
"All my life, I've really been a scorer, so my role changed last year," Orris said. "I scored when I needed to, and I'm going to need to score more this year. Me, Marvie (Keith) and LaQuon (Treadwell) will be taking more of the load."
Orris won't completely forgo his play-making duties. He said he's "not going to force anything, just play the game," and that's fine with Treadwell.
"We're going to feed off him and go off what he does," Treadwell said. "If he's making the plays, we'll let him make plays and just do our job.
"He's just a great leader, on and off the court, and he works hard every day in practice. That pushes you to work hard and just learn from him and do what he's doing."
At Thornwood, boys basketball player Darell Combs signed with Loyola (Ill.).
In girls basketball, T.F. North's Schenia Battle signed with Alabama-Birmingham, where she will join former Meteor Karisma Chapman. Chapman is a sophomore with the Blazers. North's Sabrina Montgomery signed with Morgan State.
Homewood-Flossmoor's Charnelle Reed signed with Western Illinois after originally committing to Bradley. Teammate Amena Brent will take her talents to Deland, Fla., as she signed with Stetson.
Five Marian Catholic athletes signed letters of intent. Brett Lilek (Arizona State), Robbie Nunn (Western Illinois University) and Devin Pickett (Iowa) will each move on to Division I baseball careers.
Golfer Sylvie Brick, who led the Spartans to back-to-back Class AA sixth-place finishes, signed with the University of Georgia, while swimmer Katelyn Kresal will continue her career at Illinois State University.
Bloom Township girls volleyball player Amber Fryer signed with McNeese State.