DeKALB – As Jordan Threloff walked out of Redbird Arena Friday night on his way to a homecoming bonfire at Illinois State, he took a deep breathe and felt a sense of relief he hadn't felt in nearly a year.
Minutes earlier, Threloff had told Illinois State head basketball coach Tim Jankovich that he would be a Redbird next fall following the team's Hoopsfest and first practice at Horton Fieldhouse. The pair emerged from Jankovich's office, announced the news to his future teammates to a big applause, and went off to celebrate.
"It just felt like all the pressure was gone," Threloff said.
Now, the 6-foot-10 DeKalb High senior feels like he'll be able to concentrate fully on his final season with the Barbs, not having to worry about the recruiting questions that have followed him as interest has spread this summer.
Threloff said he used three criteria to make his decision: players and coaches on and off the court, opportunity to play and the success of the team and fan base.
Illinois State scored high in all areas, led by his relationship with Illinois State assistant coach Rob Judson, Northern Illinois' former head coach.
Threloff first met Judson as an NIU ball boy, something Threloff started doing in third grade. Threloff got noticed as the tall kid that danced while wiping the floors, even getting pointers from the referees during games.
From there, Judson invited Threloff to come to team shoot-arounds and practices and the relationship bloomed.
"He’s a good guy and I’ve known his daughter, Kristin, for year," Threloff said. "I feel like I grew up with them without actually growing up with them."
Threloff also added that his official visit to ISU wasn't the best of the three. But he felt the most at home when he went out bowling with the team. Fans came up during the night, asking for photos with the team.
"Everything wasn’t perfect," Threloff said. "I saw the flaws, where with other schools everything was almost too perfect. I thought they were too good to be real."
Threloff, who averaged 22.0 points per game last season, was also impressed with the Redbird Arena fan base at the four sold-out games he attended last season.
Illinois State finished the year 24-9 and reached the Missouri Valley Conference final, where they fell 60-57 to Northern Iowa in overtime, narrowly missing an NCAA Tournament bid.
"They have a great atmosphere down there," Threloff said.
The chance to play could also come quickly after starting senior center Dinma Odiakasa graduates.
"He’s just been inundated with it the last three years," DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman said. "I think it’s a great thing. He can sigh a sense of relief."
Threloff went to Illinois State thinking he would commit but he wanted to make absolutely certain the situation felt right.
"I felt like I had to do it in person," Threloff said. "I'm about to go to this school for four years and have a relationship even longer, I should meet them face-to-face. I wanted to feel the atmosphere one more time to make sure."