Chicago State putting pieces together

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By Joe Henricksen

While the 2010-2011 season ended just a little more than two months ago for Chicago State basketball, it’s a distant memory for a program that suffered through a rough 6-26 season. All eyes and thoughts are on rebuilding the basketball program and looking ahead to next season.

If there is one certainty heading into next season — Tracy Dildy’s second as head coach — it’s that there will be improved talent on campus, thanks to a large recruiting class. Dildy and the Cougars have upgraded the talent by going the junior college route.

The headliner is a familiar name in the Chicago area — former North Lawndale star Jon Mills. The 6-4 Mills, who played at Eastern Utah Junior College, will provide an instant presence around the basket and on the glass.

As a senior at North Lawndale, where he was an all-state selection, Mills averaged 13.3 points and 14.3 rebounds a game in helping lead the Phoenix to a third-place finish in Class 3A. He continued his double-double ways at Eastern Utah, putting up 13.5 points and 11 rebounds a game in 26 minutes of action. Despite being an “undersized 4-man” his entire career, Mills is tough, gobbles up rebounds and plays with a motor. He has proven time and time again that his lack of size is not a hinderance in his productivity.

In addition to Mills, Dildy locked up an impressive recruit in Iowa Western Community College’s Jeremy Robinson. The 6-8 forward starred at Decatur Eisenhower before signing with Illinois State out of high school. He ultimately ended up at Iowa Western, where he averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this past season. In addition, Robinson will bring much-needed size and length to the Cougars.

The incoming recruiting class also includes Demerius Smith, originally from Louisiana, who is a 6-1 guard that averaged 18 points a game for Kennedy King College last year. Aaron Williams, who starred at Vocational two years ago, returns to the South Side after a year at Dodge City Community College. Williams, a 6-6 forward, averaged 7.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game as a freshman at Dodge City. Chris Key, a 6-7 forward from Bevill State Community College in Alabama, will also be heading to Chicago State after putting up 15 points and 8 rebounds a game as a freshman this past season.

Chicago State could also be on the verge of adding Lee Fisher, a transfer from Northern Illinois. Fisher, a 6-5 forward, would immediately be eligible after playing 18 minutes a game last season and averaging 3.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. And Shaquille Hines, a promising, long and athletic 6-7 forward who completed a solid season at Harlan, could be in the Chicago State mix as well before it’s all said and done.

While the incoming class will be large and will upgrade the talent level, the outgoing seniors — seven in all — will all graduate with a degree.

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