"It was a misunderstanding," Bawa said. "I fell into the hype.
"Illinois started recruiting me a lot in December," he said. "They came to my school several times and it seemed like they really wanted me. I even talked with (defensive line) coach Keith Gilmore and he gave me a verbal offer, but I thought that meant I had a full ride…that I had the scholarship."
Apparently, it didn't.
"The thing they (Illinois) said they were waiting on was my SAT score," he said. "I got a 690 the first time, a 730 the second time and finally got a 790, which made me qualified. Once I got the score I called coach Gilmore to let him know and to tell him I wanted to commit, but I couldn't reach him."
Then Bawa played in the Chesapeake Bowl. "I was interviewed at the bowl and told them I chose Illinois," he said. "Then I found out that I actually didn't have a scholarship. I kind of think they didn't think I'd qualify."
But Bawa says he does not have any hard feelings towards the Illini. "It was my misunderstanding," he said.
So while the Fighting Illini are no longer in the picture, he says he favors Connecticut and Marshall over South Carolina and Ohio. He says all have offered him, but admits he hasn't heard from any South Carolina coaches in about a month. "I know they contacted my coach at the beginning of the month," he said.
He says that Connecticut and Marshall are recruiting him the hardest and he plans on visiting both of them sometime this month. "I talked with (Marshall recruiting coordinator) JaJuan Seider and I'm supposed to visit them either on Jan. 21 or the following weekend.
"Then I'll try and go to UCONN the other weekend," he said.
"Marshall has been talking to me for a long time," he said. "They've been after me the whole time and had faith I'd get my score up and that means a lot.
"They also have pretty good tradition," he said.
Bawa admits he was surprised that coach Randy Edsall left Connecticut, but says the coach that has been recruiting him (offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead) is still there. "He told me they're still very interested," he said. "Only two coaches left for Maryland and coach Moorhead is still there, so that's good."
He says he likes the improvements that Connecticut has made the past few seasons. "They are an up-and-coming program still," he said. "They've been getting better and better and they got to the Fiesta Bowl this year. They've put a lot into the football program and are rising."
Bawa says he'll wait to signing day before making a final decision.
"I want to play for a program that is winning or coming up," he said. "I want to fit in and feel at home."
Bawa says he was previously also being recruited by Ohio State and Michigan State, but admits neither are still recruiting him. "They were never recruiting me very hard," he said about those two Big Ten programs.
He says he is still being recruited by Temple and Rutgers. "I talked with Rutgers' defensive line coach (Randy Melvin) and he asked to send him my senior film," he said. "But they haven't offered yet."
Bawa reports a 2.8 core GPA and 790 SAT.