By Joe Henricksen
While the Class of 2011 is in the process of signing their letters of intent, the Class of 2012 prospects are beginning to commit. Waukegan standout Akeem Springs, who has played a key role in helping the Bulldogs to Peoria in each of the last two seasons, committed to Tennessee State on Monday.
The Tennessee State staff has been on Springs hard since this past summer and had him down for an unofficial visit two weeks ago. Springs and his family felt the comfort level at Tennessee State and wanted to end the recruitment process early.
"Really, it was just how I felt about Tennessee State," Springs said. "For me it was a place I felt extremely comfortable and believed it was the best fit for me academically and for me to reach my full potential as a basketball player. I'm not a player who is out looking for the biggest school. I found what I liked. I want to concentrate on my basketball season and not have to worry about the recruiting part of it."
In response to offering up such an early commitment to a school in the Ohio Valley Conference, Akeem Springs' father, Dwayne, reiterated what his son had to say as far as comfort and fit.
"We asked him 'Where would you feel comfortable going to school if basketball wasn't even in the equation,'" Dwayne Springs said. "He said, 'Tennessee State.' We don't see it as settling at all. We're not trying to commit to draw attention. Akeem really wanted to get the recruiting out of the way, concentrate on getting better as a player, continue to do well academically and enjoy high school. We didn't want it to be a circus or play games in the recruiting process."
Ball State and Indiana State offered Springs, according to his father, while Southern Illinois, Missouri State and Northwestern had shown interest.
Springs, who is an excellent student in the classroom, has been an impressive football prospect as well, but he gave up the sport to concentrate on basketball. Last year as a sophomore he averaged just under 10 points and 4 rebounds a game for a team that finshed third in the state.
Springs continues to improve his skill level, including a much better looking perimeter jumper and a tighter handle. While his skill level still needs refinement, it's his size, length and athleticism for a perimeter player that jumps out at college coaches. The 6-3 Springs is a specimen athletically with length and quickness that will help him evolve into a lockdown type of defender, especially in the Ohio Valley Conference where his athleticism will be off the charts. He plays with a high motor and is always in attack mode, finishing at the rim and attacking the offensive glass.
Tennessee State, with assistant coach Dana Ford leading the charge, has hit the Chicago area extremely hard. Proviso West's Robert Covington and current freshman Pat Miller of Hales Franciscan are already playing big roles, while former Hillcrest star Kellen Thornton is sitting out this season after transferring in from Illinois State. And securing an early commitment from a rising prospect like Springs is a big recruiting plus and will give the Tigers four talented players from the Chicago area.
"We really think they are going to be a talented team in coming years," said Dwayne Springs.