CHICAGO, Ill. (WAND) -- He was the Number 1 recruit in America. A Chicago icon who is among the most popular figures in the city's rich basketball history. Still the record-holder for points in the large-school IHSA state tournament (143).
That popularity spilled over into his college days where Marcus Liberty was a beloved part of the famed Flyin' Illini team that went to the 1989 Final Four. The following year in 1989-90 he took on an even larger role, averaging 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the No. 5-seeded Illini in the NCAA Tournament.
But that's all information you knew.
Here's what you probably didn't.
Marcus Liberty came a hair away from suiting up for Syracuse, not Illinois. In fact he wasn't just interested, he committed to Jim Boeheim's program, which was loaded with legends like Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly and a freshman Derrick Coleman at the time in 1986-87 -- a season in which the Orangemen would finish as national runner-up.
In this interview on the 13 Rings podcast, Liberty discusses his relationship with then-assistant Jimmy Collins and why he flipped from Syracuse to Illinois.
He talks about how Collins' trips to the Low End neighborhood (on the eastern edge of Chicago's Washington Park area on the South Side) made an impact on him while other coaches (even Lou Henson) didn't make those trips to meet his family.
Hear also about Liberty's return to campus for the 30-reunion of the Flyin' Illini and what that experience was like.
As for Liberty's recruitment, it proves an age-old point: relationships, relationships, relationships.