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A native of the city, newly named Illinois assistant Isaac Chew gets Chicago.
With that comes his understanding that his Chicago roots may get his foot in the door many places in the city, but he still has to put in the time and effort if the Illini are going to be consistent players for the area’s premier talent.
“It’s about spending time and developing relationships in the city, the south suburbs, the western suburbs, the entire state,” Chew said on Thursday. “That’s what the goal is. We want to do whatever possible to maximize our ability to get the best players.
“The one thing I will say, and people often say it outside of Chicago, people who are from Chicago wear it like a badge of honor. We want our own to do well. It’s how the city is built. I think generally people want the state school to do well because it is the state school. This is about the state, not the city.”
Chew has relationships with some of the area’s most influential coaches, having recruited the area while an assistant at a number of schools, including most recently at Missouri. Chew said he knows Mac Irvin Fire club Mike Irvin and the Irvin family, Illinois Wolves club coach Mike Mullins, Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce and a number of other coaches. He said he looked forward to developing a stronger relationship with Simeon coach Robert Smith.
Chew reached out and spoke with Chicago Public League Coaches Association president Vince Carter on Thursday.
“I think it is a good hire,” Carter said. “You got to feel comfortable with who you hire. I know Isaac more than the other guys. I think the idea that somehow the Public League coaches have to say it’s okay is just ridiculous. The coaches just want to know who you are. Once they learn who you are, you’re fine. I think that’s all they want.”
Boyce was bullish on the hire.
“I think it’s a great hire for U of I,” Boyce said. “He has ties to the Chicago area and helped build Murray State’s great season with the recruits he brought into the program. Also, he has been in our gym and to our games numerous times this season recruiting Sterling Brown. I think he will make his presence well known in the Chicagoland area.”
Chew said he was drawn to the Illinois position partly because it would allow him to return to Chicago more often. Chew attended Proviso East High School for three years and transferred to Wells, a Chicago public school, for his final year.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to be able to come home,” Chew said. “Throughout my professional life, it’s the first time I’ve been able to come home. I think coach [John] Groce wants to do a great job in that area. I think with his energy, style of play, player will be attracted to Illinois.
“This is not about me. This is how your work together, and that’s more important than anything. The staff I’ll be a part of at Illinois with coach Groce, coach [Dustin] Ford, coach [Jamall] Walker, if we have the same vision, same infectious energy, we’ll be able to do what we’re trying to achieve.”