Chicago Colleges: St. Rita

Recruits impressed by Illini's early success

December, 28, 2012
John GroceAP Photo/Jeff RobersonIllinois' John Groce is capturing the attention of recruits with the Illini's success.
Being Illinois' head coach got John Groce in most doors when he was first hired and began recruiting the Chicago area.

Groce's sales pitch then was a mixture of the past along with predicting the future. He spoke of what he had done at Ohio and what he thought he could with Illinois. Some recruits knew of Ohio because of Chicago product D.J. Cooper and its NCAA tournament appearances, but not everyone was familiar with the Bobcats.

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Midwest Workout features Illinois stars

October, 22, 2012
Victor LawDave Telep/
LOMBARD, Ill. -- This weekend’s first-ever “Midwest Workout” highlighted 45 players selected from Illinois and the surrounding region. The concept was to bring in three groups of 15 players and put them through roughly an hour of drills, implement basic principles and then allow 30 minutes of controlled play using the concepts learned.

Mike Procopio, a former scout with the Boston Celtics and operator of Hoop Consultants, conducted the five-hour workout.

From an evaluation standpoint, the event allowed you to see how a prospect reacts to the implementation of concepts and gauge an overall skill level. There were players ranging from low to high major. In an era where exposure events are the rage, Procopio’s workout was a welcomed change where real basketball concepts were taught and emphasized. In short, the 45 kids who were hand picked to attend were subject to improvement.

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St. Rita freshman guard Charles Matthews awoke to a phone call from his high school coach notifying he had been offered by DePaul and Illinois on Tuesday.

Charles Matthews
Dave Telep/ESPN.comCharles Matthews is a young PG certainly worth keeping tabs on.
Matthews stayed home from school Tuesday because he wasn’t feeling well and had already missed one call from St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare before he was finally reached with the news.

“It was such a blessing,” said Matthews, a 6-foot-4 guard. “It’s truly an honor and a blessing to be offered these opportunities. I’m just a freshman, and I have three scholarship offers. I’m grateful.”

Matthews previously was offered by Arizona in April. DePaul and Illinois watched Matthews while he played with MeanStreets, a club team, during the April recruiting period.

“You always want to have an in-state school on your list,” Matthews said of the two offers. “My doors are going to be open to both of those schools in the long run.”

Matthews didn’t anticipate jumping on any of the offers soon. He said he has seen too many players make mistakes with early commitments.

“I’m going to take my time to look it over,” Matthews said. “I’m not going to rush into it. I notice a lot of people de-committing after they commit early. I don’t want to be one of those people to go back and forth with my college decision. I want to make a firm decision that I’m comfortable with.”

DeCesare, who was previously a Division I assistant coach, has mixed feelings about Matthews’ offers.

“I don’t think I believe in the system offering kids so early,” DeCesare said. “Who knows who’s going to be there three years from now? But I guess it’s a necessary evil because they look at who’s being offered.”

Matthews started for St. Rita’s varsity team as a freshman and averaged nine points and six rebounds.

“I think he’s got great versatility,” DeCesare said. “He could play in high school at all five positions. I think he could be an off-guard in college. I think he could be a point guard. He’s got great size to him. His size for a freshman to be a 6-4, 6-5 and handle the ball is obviously a huge plus for anybody.”

St. Rita's Avery commits to W. Michigan

October, 31, 2011
St. Rita senior forward A.J. Avery committed to Western Michigan on Monday.

Avery, a 6-6, 195-pound small forward, chose the Broncos over interest from Iowa, Ohio and Oregon State.

Avery was the third Chicago-area Class of 2012 recruit to commit to the Broncos in the past two weeks. Lake Forest Academy guard Charles Harris and Warren forward Darius Paul also previously committed to Western Michigan.

"I think they did a heck of a job recruiting this class," St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare said. "In the MAC, you need very good, versatile players. That's a really good class they got.

"I think they got a heck of a player in A.J. I think it's all in his versatility. He's a good defensive player. He understands the game. He rebounds the ball very well. He's a team-oriented player. He has a very good shot."

Avery had considered waiting until after his high school season to commit, but he decided otherwise after recently visiting Western Michigan.

"I really liked the coaching staff," Avery said. "They'll get me better. They showed they really wanted me."