By Joe Henricksen
There were suitors at a higher level, even schools with tremendous academic reputations, who had offered and courted Waukegan's Akeem Springs. But in the end, the 6-3 athletic guard chose Mississippi Valley State and the idea of being close to family.
Springs, a top 15 player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 rankings, gave a verbal commitment to Mississippi Valley State. Currently, both his sister, who is a cheerleader, and his brother, who is on the football team, go to school at Mississippi Valley. Plus, his mother, grandfather and several aunts and uncles are graduates.
"It really came down to family," said Dwayne Springs, Akeem's father. "The school is so familiar to him and he's so comfortable there. But I didn't want that to be the deciding factor, just because he was familiar and comfortable. Akeem, though, explained to me he didn't want to go anywhere else. He's confident he can be successful academically, socially and athletically no matter where he goes and this is where he wanted to be."
Springs has spent time at Mississippi Valley over the years, including attending the school's homecoming this past fall. Plus, he likes the feel of the historical black college.
While Mississippi Valley State has struggled the past three seasons, going a combined 29-65 in that stretch, they did finish 12-6 in the Southwest Athletic Conference last year and play a rugged schedule. The schedule and non-conference opponents the Delta Devils play was another draw to Springs, according to his father. This year alone Mississippi Valley State plays Notre Dame, DePaul, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern, Mississippi, Iowa State, Florida and Wisconsin.
As a result, Springs instantly becomes the Division I recruiting steal out of the state of Illinois. Second-year coach Sean Woods, who played at Kentucky collegiately, has nabbed a prospect who can be a true difference-maker in the SWAC. Springs, who is an outstanding student in the classroom, is a stat sheet stuffer who averaged over 20 a game last season, along with over six rebounds, four assists and three steals a game.
Always known for how hard he plays and competitiveness, Springs has improved his skill level over his four years under coach Ron Ashlaw and become a more versatile weapon.