How this Division I recruit from Peoria landed at a Georgia prep school
Lathan Sommerville wasn’t willing to pass up a chance to showcase his talents on high school basketball's national stage.
The Notre Dame rising sophomore and his family announced Saturday he would be leaving ND to attend Brandon Hall School in Atlanta, an international boarding and day school with a basketball partnership with The Skill Factory.
Pekin native Trey Scotti is the national team head coach for that group's basketball development program.
“Watching a lot of Lathan on film, he’s as talented as anybody I’ve seen from the area in a long time,” said Scotti, who formerly worked as the Xavier men’s basketball video coordinator. “Definitely, since I’ve been old enough to really ‘get it,' he’s probably the most talented kid I’ve seen in the area, in my opinion."
Scotti likes Sommerville's talent now, but can't wait to see how the young player will develop over the next couple of years.
"What’s he going to look like even as a 17-year-old?" Scotti asked. “Sky is the limit. There’s no reason he can’t be in the NBA one day and have a long career.”
Leaving behind Peoria
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward/center played consistently and even started for the Irish, who went 14-2 last season. ND was set to return Sommerville, Nelson Reynolds and Cooper Koch, another rising sophomore, who has offers from Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Bradley and Western Illinois.
Sommerville, who played summer AAU with Nike Meanstreets out of Chicago, holds scholarship offers from Bradley, Wake Forest and Rutgers.
“I’m really happy for him,” Notre Dame coach Tom Lacher said. “It does hurt losing somebody on your team that’s that talented, but we got talent. We wish him luck.”
Scotti says when he got the job in July, Sommerville was "right at the top of the list of guys that I wanted to reach out and see if the family had interest." Scotti then connected with Sommerville’s father — former Bradley star Marcellus Sommerville — about bringing Lathan to Georgia.
The elder Sommerville and his wife, Brooke, went from wanting their son to stay in central Illinois to ultimately agreeing, in part because of the relationship the family formed with Scotti.
“It’s a very hard decision, of course, to let your child leave and go so far away," Brooke said, "but it’s kind of like how (you’re) the mother bird and how you have to push your child out the nest, so he can actually fly."
Brooke likes how Scotti, a former Pekin High player, would check in on the family. She feels comfortable sending her son to play under him.
"Lathan wants to compete at a national level, and this is the best opportunity for him right now," Brooke said. “We don’t want to be the ones to hold him back."
Brooke said Lathan wants to accomplish multitudes through basketball, and she wants to give him the opportunity to match his skills and knowledge.
“It’s truly exciting," Marcellus said. "I don’t even know how to put it into words, honestly, because everything happened so fast once you do make the decision. It’s been a blessing for him to be able to have an opportunity play on the national level and showcase his talents, just play the game of basketball he loves and be able to go to school and do so, at this age, at that level is remarkable.”
Also, trips to Atlanta will be very frequent for the Sommervilles: “We’ll stay in Peoria, but we’ll go visit quite often,” Marcellus said.
COVID as a factor
The Sommervilles' decision also was informed by the uncertainty of Illinois' 2021-22 high school basketball season. Illinois governor JB Pritzker mandated on Aug. 4 the requirement of all indoor IHSA sports to wear masks.
There was no Illinois High School Association postseason for 2020-21 season, and Notre Dame's 2020 postseason was canceled just days before facing Manual in the championship of the Class 3A Peoria Sectional.
“What all the kids in Illinois dealt last year was hard,” Marcellus said. “We were in limbo for so long.”
What's in store for Georgia?
In playing with TSF, Lathan gets a chance to play 35-40 games including tournaments in Ohio, Virginia, Georgia and Florida. Scotti says he wants to get some games in Illinois; he checked with the Washington Tournament of Champions, but its slate was full.
One of Sommerville’s teammates is Kam Craft, a Buffalo Grove native, who is an Xavier commit and a top-100 recruit.
“(I’m) working on getting us in the area at some point,” Scotti said. “I think it’s going to happen.”
Partnership details between Brandon Hall School and TSF include "academic offerings, facility use for training and competitions, and a holistic approach to development including room and board," according to the school website. Seven-day boarding tuition is $59,150.
“We want these kids to get better and get ready to play basketball at the next level," Scotti said, "while also not sacrificing anything academically."
Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.