Sam Maniscalco to play for Illinois

Former Bradley point guard Sam Maniscalco announced Tuesday he will play next season at Illinois.

Maniscalco, who will graduate from Bradley in May, was recently granted his release from the school after coach Jim Les was fired. He will be able to play immediately at Illinois because he plans to pursue a degree unavailable at Bradley.

A six-foot guard, Maniscalco only played six games this season due to an injury. He averaged 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals last season.

Maniscalco also had interest from Indiana and Iowa State.

"It was definitely different this time around," said Maniscalco, who starred at St. Patrick High School in Chicago. "First, I wasn't highly recruited out of high school. Second, this is a rare opportunity for a student-athlete."

Maniscalco's Bradley departure could work out perfectly for Illinois next season. The Illini are graduating point guard Demetri McCamey and don't have a natural successor among their returning players.

Incoming freshman Tracy Abrams is expected to be the team's point guard of the future, and Maniscalco could ease Abrams' transition to college basketball. Coincidentally, Abrams, McCamey and Maniscalco all played club basketball for the Illinois Wolves.

"Talking to the coaches, I'll have an opportunity to prove myself and play," Maniscalco said. "I'm just going in with the mentality of trying to help any way I can. I hope to help the team to be successful and meet its goals."

An ongoing ankle injury led to Maniscalco's early shutdown this season. He had surgery on his left ankle and expects to return to the court in the near future.

Maniscalco said he began considering his options before Les was fired and has no ill will against Bradley.

"I was happy at Bradley," Maniscalco said. "It's been nothing but good. I wouldn't be the person I am without having gone to Bradley.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.