Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your each day dose of faculty basketball information from Illini beat author and AP Prime 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll provide up insights each morning on Brad Underwood’s staff:

Illinois freshman guard Andre Curbelo has represented a number of Puerto Rican junior nationwide groups on the highest stage. Fellow freshman guard Edgar Padilla Jr. has worldwide expertise of his personal and joined the Illini (and Curbelo) as a walk-on forward of the 2020-21 season.

Two Puerto Rican level guards may simply be the beginning of Illinois’ pipeline to the unincorporated U.S. territory situated 1,000 miles southeast of Miami within the Caribbean. The Illini supplied Puerto Rican wing Ramses “RJ” Melendez on Monday night.

Melendez is ranked as a four-star recruit within the Class of 2021 and as a three-star prospect by each Rivals and 247Sports. The 6-foot-7, 195-pound wing is ranked as excessive as 81st nationally within the 2021 class by ESPN. He has different presents from Dayton, DePaul, Florida, Florida Atlanta, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Mercer, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Rhode Island, South Florida, St. John’s, UMass, VCU and Virginia Tech.

The Illinois provide for Melendez continues the mandatory recruiting pivot for the Illini within the Class of 2021 after lacking out on different wings like Brandon Weston (Seton Corridor), David Jones (DePaul), Jordan Nesbitt (Memphis) and even one other Puerto Rican in Rafael Pinzon (St. John’s). Illinois has additionally extra lately supplied four-star guards Wesley Cardet Jr. out of West Oaks Academy (Fla.) and Arizona Compass Prep’s TyTy Washington.

Melendez helped Heart Pointe Christian Academy — a small college situated in Kissimmee, Fla., — to a Sunshine Unbiased Athletic Affiliation championship this previous March. The White Tigers (25-7) topped West Oaks Academy (pre-Cardet and this summer season’s infusion of extra expertise) 68-63, and Melendez put up 20 factors, six rebounds and two blocks to earn the sport’s MVP honors. Melendez averaged 18.6 factors, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.7 blocks for the season and shot 40 % from three-point vary.

Initially from Hatillo, Puerto Rico, Melendez has represented his dwelling nation in worldwide competitors. Melendez performed for Workforce Puerto Rico within the 2019 FIBA U17 Centrobasket Championships alongside Padilla. Melendez averaged 9.2 factors and three.8 rebounds, as Puerto Rico completed as runner-up.

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