It didn't take long for Cam Burrell to find out how much the Eastern Illinois men's basketball coaches valued him.
After contacting the 6'7 senior forward from Morgan Park High School in Chicago during the super sectionals, Jay Spoonhour and his staff visited with Burrell at his home a couple of weeks after the state tournament. That's when he knew EIU was serious.
"They came in for an in-home visit and I thought that was really big. No one had done that yet," Burrell said. "That really caught my attention. I knew that was a school I wanted to go to even before I went on a visit."
Burrell still waited to commit to EIU until he visited Charleston. So two-time state champion visited EIU last Thursday and Friday. After meeting more with the coaching staff and with the players, Burrell was sold. Two days later, Burrell tweeted his verbal commitment to EIU.
"The coaches were really on me and made me a priority and they stayed in touch a lot and talked to me every day," Burrell said. "There was an opportunity for me to play with people leaving and graduating, so playing time played a role. It is close to home and I met the players and they are cool. Some of my high school coaches know the coaching staff, too. It was a fun process and I enjoyed it."
Players can officially sign with schools again during the spring signing period, which starts on Wednesday. Burrell chose EIU over Louisiana-Monroe and fellow Ohio Valley Conference program UT Martin.
Burrell enjoyed his in-home visit with the EIU coaching staff and he got to know the staff more during his visit last week, but visiting with his potential teammates was just as important. Burrell met with the team last Friday and instantly bonded with a couple of players and the rest of the team.
"I got a feel for the players and the coaches and that was cool," Burrell said. "I hung out with Mack Smith and he was really cool. I spent some time with him and Shawn Wilson was cool."
Smith was a freshman this past season for the Panthers, who the two would have at least three seasons together. Smith was second on the team with 12.4 points per game and he hit 54 three-pointers. Wilson is a walk-on point guard. The redshirt sophomore played 27 minutes against Tennessee Tech and finished with five points and six assists.
EIU went 12-19 last season, including 7-11 in the OVC and advanced to the second round of the OVC Tournament. Burrell should have a chance to play right away for the Panthers because of graduations and transfers. Muusa Dama, Montell Goodwin, Ray Crossland and DeVantae Price all graduated and Jajuan Starks, D'Angelo Jackson, Michael Chavers and Justice Green all announced they will transfer.
So there will be plenty of minutes open at the wing position, which Burrell can fill as an athletic 6'7 wing/forward.
"They think I can come in and play right away," Burrell said. "Them bringing me in, they said they don't have anybody that can do what I do and I can do a lot for them."
Burrell was a key part in Morgan Park's last two Class 3A state titles. This past season, Burrell averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game.
"They told me they want me to be at the three or four and just to go out and play basketball," Burrell said. "I feel I bring energy and defense and I can guard multiple positions. Offensively, I can do what I do best, getting offensive and defensive rebounds and making plays when I am open. I used to be more of a shooter, but now I feel like I am a slasher."
Spoonhour's staff still has four scholarships they could possibly fill during the spring signing period. Burrell joins Highland Community College's Shareef Smith, Labette Community College's Kashawn Charles and Olney Central College's Josiah Wallace as incoming players for the 2018-19 season.