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Glenn Pursley, Published July 22 2013

Bison football recruit Illies to take to the court

FARGO – Major college football recruits don’t just sit around all summer and wait for the start of the season, they keep busy.

And for Jeff Illies, playing one last game of basketball with opponents turned teammates seemed like the perfect way to pass the time.

The North Dakota Lions All-Star series starts today in Fargo and Illies, along with 23 other standout athletes, will take to the court and play together one last time.

The series matches the top boys and girls Class B seniors against the same from Class A.

“It’s a great experience and it’s been fun so far,” said Illies, who committed to play football for North Dakota State last December. “I know a lot of these guys, and to come together on the same team and try to beat the Class A guys is really fun.”

A tough decision presented itself to Illies in the form of choosing between participating in the Shrine Bowl All-Star football game or the Lions All-star Basketball Series.

But, having already played in one all-star game this summer, his passion for basketball got the best of him and made the choice much easier to make.

“You have to pick between Lions and Shrine, so I picked Lions,” Illies said. “I played in the (Badlands Bowl) and I love basketball just as much, so I figured I’d play Lions and play basketball one more time.”

Picking to play collegiate basketball or football was another difficult choice Illies lingered on for quite a while, until he was contacted at the Bison football camp the summer before his senior year. And when they did reach out, Illies was thrilled at what they offered him.

“Up until they contacted me I really didn’t know which one I wanted to play, but I knew I wanted to play one,” said Illies. “I went to the camp and it was crazy when they offered it to me. I knew I could play there, but I didn’t think I’d get that big of a scholarship, so I was pretty excited about that.”

Illies was a three-sport athlete for Wyndmere-Lidgerwood and will redshirt as a tight end for NDSU this fall, where he plans on majoring in university studies with hopes to be a coach someday.

He led the Warbirds to playoff berths in both basketball and football, along with winning a state track title in the 110-meter hurdles last season. On the court he averaged 22.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game and was named the Class B senior athlete of the year a season ago.

When asked what his most memorable moment was during his high school career he replied: “Winning a state championship in 2010, my sophomore year. We didn’t lose many games, and having a great coach was just a fun experience all around.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Glenn Pursley at (701) 241-5549