Cary-Grove’s Quinn Baker and Crystal Lake Central’s Corban Murphy likely could have had their pick of numerous Division III schools for athletics.
Baker was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selection at quarterback after helping the Trojans to the Class 6A state championship game. Murphy was second on the area boys basketball scoring list and was an All-Area first-team selection.
Yet the gravitational pull of bigger schools where family members are currently students was strong for Baker and Murphy.
Baker picked Northwestern, where his brother Hayden plays center, and will follow Hayden’s plan and walk on with the Wildcats. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald offered Baker a preferred walk-on spot, so he will not be on scholarship the first year, but will have a roster spot.
Murphy will attend Arizona State, where his father (John) and mother (Carrie) attended, and where brother Keenan and sister Bailey are currently students. Also, Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski is an ASU alumnus who knows some of the Sun Devils’ coaches. Murphy, a 6-foot-3 guard-forward in high school, will walk on and try to earn a spot on the team or the practice squad.
Baker scored 35 on his ACT and picked Northwestern for its academic reputation. Over the winter, he visited the school and met with Fitzgerald, who told Baker there would be a walk-on spot for him.
“[Fitzgerald] said they knew from Hayden being there that I had a similar character, work ethic and commitment,” said Baker, who will major in chemical engineering. “And that I was a good athlete and would be a good fit. I was looking for schools to play football and some not to play football. I hadn’t found a school that fit both, but it became real more in the spring and I committed.”
Hayden, who played center on C-G’s 2009 Class 6A state championship team, walked on and now plays on scholarship for the Wildcats. He likely will use his two remaining years of eligibility, although as an anthropology major with a concentration in human biology, he is a senior academically.
“I let [Quinn] make his own decision,” Hayden said. “If he had questions, I was there to answer them. It’s fun. We were teammates in high school and now we get to repeat that in college. He’s a very smart kid and he can figure things out. He’s a hard worker and a high character guy who brings an attitude to the locker room that coaches love.”
Quinn Baker was an option quarterback who rarely threw in high school but was adept at running. The Wildcats will look at him as a wide receiver.
Murphy was instrumental in Central finishing 22-6 in 2012 and 25-4 last season. He was a three-year varsity player who scored from the outside and inside, averaging 17.9 points a game for the Tigers.
D-III coaches attended Central’s games regularly this season scouting Murphy and 6-7 players Kyle Fleck and David Panicko. Murphy could have taken a surer thing with a smaller school, but wanted Arizona State.
“It was definitely hard,” he said. “I always wanted to play basketball, but I looked at it from a school point of view. What if basketball didn’t work out somewhere and I was stuck at a school where I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be at ASU.”
Murphy has worked out with trainer Craig Kastning this summer and continued working with Jim Cook, who helps with specific basketball training, usually at McHenry County College’s gym.
“I’ve been working for it. I have an opportunity to walk on,” Murphy said. “I feel I can go and compete. I’m a competitive guy. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It won’t be the worst thing. I want to keep working and see what happens.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.