BELLEVILLE — The Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm hit the jackpot seven years ago when they got a tip on a talented player from St. Louis, who had yet to reach his potential.
That player was Josh Harrellson, who went on to play three years at Kentucky, where he helped the Wildcats reach the Final Four and since then has spent time on the rosters of the New York Knicks and Miami Heat.
Can lightning strike twice for the Blue Storm?
With the signing of 6-foot-7-inch LaRoyce Eason of Fort Zumwalt East High School last week, SWIC coach Jay Harrington said he is hopeful.
"Actually the same person who told us about Josh (Harrellson), gave us the tip on LaRoyce,'' Harrington said. "LaRoyce' stats, (6 points and 7 rebounds per game), aren't that impressive. But he didn't get the ball much and honestly, the seven rebounds per game is pretty good.
"LaRoyce is a kid with a large upside. He's 6-7, but I think he'll be 6-8 by the time practice begins in the fall. Plus, he's got very long arms. Hopefully, he'll be another piece of the puzzle.''
Eason also shot 44 percent from the field and led the Lions in blocked shots with 44 during the 2012-13 season. Fort Zumwalt East finished 6-19 a year ago.
Eason will play the center spot at SWIC.
"He's a definite No. 5 (center),'' Harrington said. "LaRoyce is an athletic young man who can get up and down the court. His long arms on the press will be a plus for us."
Harrington said Eason fits the new trend of centers in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, Players who stand between 6-7 and 6-9 and are agile and athletic.
"We had the two 7-footers last year and Wabash (Valley) and John Logan College each had a 6-9 to 6-10 kid. But for the most part, teams are going to smaller, quicker kids who can get up and down the court,'' Harrington said. "We're changing our style this season as well.
"We're going to be the kind of team which will full-court press you for 40 minutes and just plain get after it. We want to be able to get up and down the floor. We've got the athletes who can run and we've got several kids who can flat-out really shoot the basketball.''