Rich East alum Jamere Dismukes takes the Raptors’ reins with high hopes, big plans

Rich basketball and coach Jamere Dismukes are the perfect match.

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Hyde Park coach Jamere Dismukes looks on during the game against Kenwood.

Hyde Park coach Jamere Dismukes looks on during the game against Kenwood.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Rich basketball and coach Jamere Dismukes are the perfect match.

Following the consolidation of the district’s high school athletics, which included closing Rich East following the 2019-20 school year, you have a basketball program in desperate need of stability.

In Dismukes, who was hired this spring to take over the basketball program, Rich has an up-and-coming young coach who will resonate with kids in the area.

More importantly, he’s heavily invested in the school and has a legit passion for the place. Dismukes grew up in the district and starred at Rich East, where he graduated in 2009.

“This is the right opportunity at the right time,” Dismukes said. “It was a no-brainer for me when it was offered.”

Dismukes was considered to be one of the rising young coaches in the Public League when he took over the Hyde Park program in 2020. But after two seasons in the city he is returning to the south suburbs.

“This is home for me,” Dismukes said. “And it’s always great to go home and coach where you grew up.”

Dismukes was the former coach at Rich East. When the school district, due to declining enrollment numbers, consolidated and went to two campuses –– at Rich Central and Rich South –– Dismukes was out of a coaching job. The district decided to go with Cornelius Crossley for the past two seasons.

Now Dismukes is back in the district and at a school where one south suburban head basketball coach says “Rich Township is a sleeping giant with the right head coach.”

And Rich has found that in the well-liked, personable and seasoned Dismukes, who has also coached at junior college power Indian Hills. You can hear the genuine energy and excitement in Dismukes’ voice when asked about how high of a ceiling this program has in the south suburbs.

“I think this place is a gold mine,” Dismukes said. “It’s a program that should be competing for sectional championships on a regular basis. Everything is in place to do that. The mindset they have here now, the resources they are putting into Rich Township and getting behind. It’s exciting.”

A brand new fieldhouse with three regulation wood courts will be completed this summer. And while the tradition-rich Big Dipper is a shell of itself, the holiday tournament played at Rich South for decades, Dismukes plans to revive it sooner than later.

“I am 100 percent invested in getting that tournament going again,” said Dismukes, who has played and coached in the tournament. “That’s a huge goal of mine, to revamp that tournament and get it back to where it once was –– as one of the most prominent tournaments in the state.”

Dismukes says he will be “heavily involved” in the Big Dipper, both in trying to attract teams and, most importantly, to “make it fun and attractive again.” This was once a must-see tournament in late December, especially in the south suburbs.

“I think you will see a drastic change in the Dipper,” Dismukes said.

Dismukes says he can see all the district is implementing, both academically and athletically.

Then there is the large geographical area the district covers in the south suburbs. There are parts of Richton Park, Park Forest, Country Club Hills, Matteson, Chicago Heights and Tinley Park within the district.

“There are so many kids and so much talent,” said Dismukes of a school with roughly 3,000 students. “The main thing for me now is to keep those kids here, keep them home. They are right in our backyard. There have been so many kids and players who have left our feeder schools to go to CPS.”

Dismukes grew up in the area, so he has strong, established ties to the community. He hopes those relationships will make a difference in keeping talent home. He says he has received a ton of support already. But he also knows that going from three high schools in the district to one –– and all the challenges that come with that –– is still a work in progress.

“We are no longer rivals or against each other,” Dismukes said. “We are all one now, so bridging that gap is important.”

While Dismukes wants to keep young talent in place in the district, he believes he has enough talent this year to be more than just competitive.

Ray Austin, a 6-0 junior guard this past season, is a player Dismukes believes will break out as a senior. The scoring guard will be joined in the backcourt with Tyler Wooten, a promising 6-3 combo guard in the Class of 2024.

“I really do think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Dismukes said.

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