NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Zach Cleveland was back in his element.
This weekend, the 6-7 Normal Community swing man was a top performer at the Midwest Crossroads Showcase at Normal West High School.
“It’s our first time playing together. We’re doing well,” Cleveland said of his Ironmen team which won all four games it played over the weekend. “It’s fun to be back on the court, with fans, no masks. The environment is great.”
College coaches could watch and talk to recruits at the NCAA live event. For most players, like Cleveland, this was the first time they played in front of college recruiters since the start of the pandemic last spring.
“I’d say it was fun. It would be super easy to be nervous,” Cleveland said. “But after the first few minutes of playing out there, it’s really fun.”
Among the coaches taking in the action Saturday were Illinois’ Brad Underwood, Bradley’s Brian Wardle and Illinois State’s Dan Muller, who had offered Cleveland a scholarship.
Cleveland’s recruiting stock seemingly went up every day in June as he was collecting Division I offers. Sunday night he announced on social media he’d picked Liberty University as his college choice.
He got a lot of recruiting attention in the past few weeks but said he never got overwhelmed. It probably helped his mother Marla was a star player at Illinois State and his father Mark played at Div. III Hanover College (Ind.).
And his main recruiting coach was his sister Grace, an All-American volleyball player at Purdue.
“My older sister went through the recruiting process. She helped me a lot. That helped me get through it,” Clevand said. “She tells me things that are really important, like relationships with the coaches. That’s what I’ve really been looking for.”
Zach is very happy to be headed to a Division I basketball program but he still acknowledges his sister is best athlete in the family. For now.
“I’ve got to give it to her still,” Cleveland said with a grin. “But I’m working my way up there.”